“STAR TREK VOYAGER” RETROSPECT: (5.06) “Timeless”

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“STAR TREK VOYAGER” RETROSPECT: (5.06) “Timeless”

The 100th episode of any television series is usually regarded with special interest – especially by television critics. Not all TV series go out of their way to write a special episode for that particular landmark. But many do. The producers of “STAR TREK VOYAGER”, Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, along with screenwriter Joe Menosky, went out of their way to write a special story celebrating the series’ 100th episode called (5.06) “Timeless”

The last time I watched “Timeless”, it occurred to me that it reminded me of a movie filmed over a decade ago called “FREQUENCY”. Both the television episode and the movie featured time travel. Yet, in both, no character participated in any real time travel. In “FREQUENCY”, radio frequencies enabled an adult man in 1999 communicate with his father, living in 1969. The writers of “Timeless”, which aired nearly two years earlier, utilized Seven-of-Nine’s personal Borg components (her interplexing beacon and chronometric node), and a stolen Borg temporal transmitter and later, the holographic Doctor’s mobile emitter; to allow an older Harry Kim to communicate with the U.S.S. Voyager crew, 15 years into the past. How did this all begin?

Back in 2375 – early Season Five – Voyager’s crew created their own Quantum slipstream drive in order to finally return to the Alpha Quadrant and home. While the crew celebrates, Chief Helmsman Tom Paris informs his friend, Operations Chief Harry Kim that the device might prove to be disastrous, due to a 0.42 phase variance in the drive’s system; which could create hull breaches for Voyager and knock it out of the slipstream in mid-flight. To save the project, Harry suggests that two crewmen in a shuttle could “ride the rapids in front of Voyager” and map the slipstream threshold as it forms and transmit phase corrections back to Voyager. The corrections would compensate for the phase variance, preventing a catastrophic collapse of the slipstream. Captain Kathryn Janeway, desperate to get home, agrees to the risky proposal. Harry and Commander Chakotay travel in the newly built Delta Flyer to map out a flight path for Voyager. After Seven-of-Nine reports a phrase variance, Harry quickly calculates the corrections and transmits them back to Voyager. Unfortunately, the correction proves to be the wrong one and Voyager gets knocked out of the slipstream and crashes on an icy Class-L planet with all hands dead. Meanwhile, Harry and Chakotay continue traveling in the slipstream, until they reach the Alpha Quadrant and Earth.

Fifteen years later, both men, haunted by Voyager’s destruction and their survival, eventually resign from Starfleet. Harry has discovered what he believes is the right phrase variance to save Voyager. When Starfleet discovers a Borg transmitter, the former ensign and former First Officer Chakotay steal it. With the help of Chakotay’s girlfriend Tessa Omond, the pair travel to the sector where Voyager crashed, board the ship, activate the EHM and take Seven-of-Nine’s frozen corpse to their ship. Harry and Chakotay asks the Doctor to remove Seven’s interplexing beacon and chronometric node, so they could use the objects and a Borg transmitter to send the correct phrase variables to the former Borg fifteen years into the past.

When Brannon Braga first pitched the episode to cast member Garrett Wang, he stated that he wanted “Timeless” to be the show’s TOS – (1.28) “The City on the Edge of Forever”. Did he and Rick Berman succeed? I think so. If I must be honest, I consider “Timeless” to not only be one of the best “STAR TREK VOYAGER” episodes I have seen, but also one of the best that the entire TREK franchise has offered. Although it is not the only production that has used communication as a means of time travel, it is the first I have come across. If there has been another television episode or movie that has used communication, instead of physical time travel, I would like to know. But this aspect of time travel is not the only reason I find “Timeless” first-rate. This is a beautiful, bittersweet tale filled with desperate hope, tension, close calls, disappointments and remorse over past mistakes.

Although characters like Chakotay, the Doctor, Captain Janeway, Tom Paris and Tessa Omond played major roles in this tale, “Timeless” really belongs to the character of Harry Kim. In an article I had written a few years ago, I stated that Harry’s conservative nature led him to behave in a by-the-book manner, until his emotions drove him to rock the boat. I was being kind. Harry has a nature that is so conservative and by-the-book that when things go wrong, he tends to have a breakdown . . . a fit. I have seen this happened not only in “Timeless”, but in a few other episodes as well. In this episode, Harry’s “fit” eventually morphed into a bitter, sardonic and obsessive personality. In the 2375 scenes, I could not tell who was more obsessed about returning to the Alpha Quadrant – him or Captain Janeway. And in the 2390 scenes, his obsessive personality – mingled with some bittersweet self-flagellation – focused on his efforts to correct his earlier mistake.

It was easy to see what drove Harry to change the timeline and save Voyager. I had a little more difficulty in figuring out what drove Chakotay to do the same. What drove him to resign from Starfleet and make himself a fugitive from Federation law by stealing a Borg transmitter and the Delta Flyer? It was easy to see that despite a new life with a loving girlfriend by his side, Chakotay could not recover from Voyager’s destruction any more than Harry could. Being a more subtle man, he did not wear his despair and guilt on his sleeve. His tour of Voyager’s frozen Bridge and especially his reaction to the sight of a dead Kathryn Janeway made it painfully obvious that he remained haunted by the ship’s destruction, his initial reluctance over Harry’s plan to use the Delta Flyer as Voyager’s guide through the slipstream, and especially his captain’s death. Even girlfriend Tessa pointed out that his heart has always been more focused on Voyager than on her.

“Timeless” featured some first-class performances. Although most of the cast gave their usual competent performances, there were some that stood out for me. Kate Mulgrew did an excellent job in conveying Captain Janeway’s willingness and near desperation to use a questionable plan for Voyager’s trip through the slipstream. Robert Duncan McNeill gave a subtle performance as a more serious Tom Paris, who harbored doubts about the effectiveness of the Quantum slipstream drive constructed by the crew. Robert Picardo proved to be the episode’s backbone as the holographic Doctor who was not only amazed to find himself online some fifteen years in the future, but also proved to be a voice of reason for the increasingly erratic Harry Kim. Christina Harnos gave a nice, solid performance as Chakotay’s 2390 girlfriend, Tessa Omond. And LeVar Burton, who did such a marvelous job as director of this episode, also gave a nice, solid performance as Captain Geordi LaForge, the 2390 version of the “STAR TREK NEXT GENERATIONS” character, sent by Starfleet to stop Harry and Chakotay’s attempt to change the timeline. However, the two performances that really shone above the others came from Garrett Wang and Robert Beltran. Wang gave one of the best performances of his career and during his time on “STAR TREK VOYAGER”. He did an excellent job in portraying an older and bitter Harry Kim, who is not only guilt-ridden over Voyager’s fate, but desperate to correct his mistake. Beltran was equally impressive in a less showy performance as a haunted Chakotay, who tried to move on with a new life and failed.

“Timeless” never made my list of top favorite episodes from the TREK franchise. However, it almost made the list. But I do believe that not only is it one of the best “STAR TREK VOYAGER” episodes ever made, but also one of the best from the entire franchise.

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Five Favorite Episodes of “STAR TREK VOYAGER” Season One (1995)

Below is a list of my five favorite episodes from Season One of “STAR TREK VOYAGER”. Created by Rick Berman, Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor; the series starred Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway: 

FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “STAR TREK VOYAGER” SEASON ONE (1995)

1. (1.11) “State of Flux” – Captain Kathryn Janeway and other senior members of Voyager’s crew Janeway attempt to flush out a spy who is sending information to a group of aggressive Delta Quadrant species called the Kazon-Nistrim. Martha Hackett and Josh Clark guest-starred.

2. (1.14) “Faces” – When Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres, Lieutenant Tom Paris and Ensign Pete Durst are captured by Vidiians during an Away mission, Torres is split into her human and Klingon halves in order for her captors to use her DNA to find a cure for their species. Brian Markinson guest-starred.

3. (1.01-1.02) “Caretaker” – While searching for a Maquis ship with a Starfleet spy aboard in the series premiere, the U.S.S. Voyager is swept into the Delta Quadrant, more than 70,000 light-years from home, by an incredibly powerful being known as the “Caretaker”. Gavan O’Herlihy and Basil Langston guest-starred.

4. (1.04) “Time and Again” – While investigating a planet just devastated by a polaric explosion, Janeway and Paris are engulfed by a subspace fracture and transported in time to before the accident. Nicolas Surovy guest-starred.

5. (1.07) “Eye of the Needle” – Voyager’s crew discover a micro-wormhole leads to the Alpha Quadrant and makes contact with a Romulan ship on the other side with ironic consequences. Vaughn Armstrong guest-starred.

Top Ten Most Depressing “STAR TREK VOYAGER” Episodes

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TOP TEN MOST DEPRESSING “STAR TREK VOYAGER” EPISODES

Below is a list of what I believe to be the top ten (10) most depressing or darkest ”STAR TREK VOYAGER” episodes: 

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1. ”Memorial” – Chakotay, Tom Paris, Harry Kim, and Neelix begin to experience strange visions after an away mission. Voyager’s crew discover that the four had earlier encounter a war memorial that convey memories of a past military massacre. (Season 6)

2. ”Course: Oblivion” – After B’Elanna Torres and Tom Paris get married, subspace radiation causes the crew and their ship to disintegrate. (Season 5)

3. ”Tuvix” – A transporter accident merges Tuvok and Neelix into a new person. (Season 2)

4. ”Deadlock” – A duplicate Voyager is created after it passes through a spatial scission, after the original ship tries to evade a Vidian ship. (Season 2)

5. ”Prey” – Voyager rescues a Hirogen survivor who tells them a new kind of prey is on the loose – namely a stranded Species 8472 trying to return home. (Season 4)

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6. ”Hunters” – A transmission from Starfleet Command gets held at a Hirogen relay station and Janeway sets course to retrieve it, along with letters from home for the crew. (Season 4)

7. ”Extreme Risk” – B’Elanna Torres purposely puts herself into increasingly more dangerous situations, in order to deal with her survivor’s guilt over the destruction of the Maquis. Meanwhile the crew decides to build a new shuttlecraft, the Delta Flyer. (Season 5)

8. ”Friendship One” – The crew is sent on its first mission by Starfleet in years: to find a lost probe from Earth’s past that has endangered a planet in the Delta Quadrant. (Season 7)

9. ”Thirty Days” – Tom Paris disregards orders by helping an aquatic world and pays the price for his actions. (Season 5)

10. ”Mortal Coil” – Neelix dies in an attempt to sample proto-matter from a nebula. Seven-of-Nine revives him using Borg nanoprobes, but Neelix finds it hard to adjust to resurrection, especially since he has no memory of an afterlife of any kind. (Season 4)

What are your choices?

Excessive Criticism of “STAR TREK VOYAGER”

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EXCESSIVE CRITICISM OF “STAR TREK VOYAGER”

For the past two decades, I have never encountered so much criticism of one particular Star Trek show than I have for the 1995-2001 series, “STAR TREK VOYAGER”

Ironically, I used to buy this negative opinion. Or accept it. One of the reasons I had ignored “STAR TREK VOYAGER” for so many years, because I had assumed that those fans who had deemed it inferior to the other shows in the franchise were right. When my sister found out that the rest of our family was ignoring the show, she fervently suggested that we watch it. This happened when the early Season Five episodes were going through its first run. Well, we did. We watched some of those early Season Five shows. We also watched the previous episodes from Season One to Season Four that were currently in syndication. And guess what? My family became fans of the show.

I am not going to claim that “VOYAGER” was perfect. Yes, it had its flaws. I have even posted a few articles about some of the flaws I had encountered. But I was also able to pick out both major and minor flaws in the other Trek shows at the time – “STAR TREK”“STAR TREK NEXT GENERATION”, and “STAR TREK DEEP SPACE NINE” – while still enjoying them. I never really became a big fan of “STAR TREK ENTERPRISE”, but there were a good number of episodes that I really enjoyed.

This fervent need to nitpick everything about “STAR TREK VOYAGER” in order to deem it as some kind of pop culture disaster is mind boggling to me. Every time I access an article on the Internet – especially on a Trek message board – about series, the criticism seemed to strike me as unnecessarily excessive . . . and constant. And most of the complaints I have come across are either about some ridiculously minor flaw or how Janeway was a terrible star ship captain. I do not understand this opinion. Janeway made her mistakes. So did the other Trek captains. What made her worse than the others? Her gender? Star Trek shows were not allowed to have women as the leads, or even worse, in the command position?

More importantly, these same fans seem very reluctant to point out the flaws – both minor and major – about the other Trek shows. At least not to this extreme degree. What is going on? If you are going to state that “VOYAGER” was simply the worst show in the Trek franchise, do not expect me to buy this opinion anymore. After seeing the show and the others in the franchise, I really have great difficulty in accepting this view. So what is it? What is the real truth? I guess in the end, these are questions that no one can really answer. After all, art and entertainment are subjective.

Five Favorite Episodes of “STAR TREK VOYAGER” Season One (1995)

Below is a list of my five favorite episodes from Season One of “STAR TREK VOYAGER”. Created by Rick Berman, Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor; the series starred Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway:

FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “STAR TREK VOYAGER” SEASON ONE (1995)

1. (1.11) “State of Flux” – Captain Kathryn Janeway and other senior members of Voyager’s crew Janeway attempt to flush out a spy who is sending information to a group of aggressive Delta Quadrant species called the Kazon-Nistrim. Martha Hackett and Josh Clark guest-starred.

2. (1.14) “Faces” – When Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres, Lieutenant Tom Paris and Ensign Pete Durst are captured by Vidiians during an Away mission, Torres is split into her human and Klingon halves in order for her captors to use her DNA to find a cure for their species. Brian Markinson guest-starred.

3. (1.01-1.02) “Caretaker” – While searching for a Maquis ship with a Starfleet spy aboard in the series premiere, the U.S.S. Voyager is swept into the Delta Quadrant, more than 70,000 light-years from home, by an incredibly powerful being known as the “Caretaker”. Gavan O’Herlihy and Basil Langston guest-starred.

4. (1.04) “Time and Again” – While investigating a planet just devastated by a polaric explosion, Janeway and Paris are engulfed by a subspace fracture and transported in time to before the accident. Nicolas Surovy guest-starred.

5. (1.07) “Eye of the Needle” – Voyager’s crew discover a micro-wormhole leads to the Alpha Quadrant and makes contact with a Romulan ship on the other side with ironic consequences. Vaughn Armstrong guest-starred.

“STAR TREK VOYAGER RETROSPECTIVE”: (3.24) “Displaced”

 

“STAR TREK VOYAGER RETROSPECTIVE”: (3.24) “Displaced”

I might as well be honest. I wish I could be objective about the ”STAR TREK VOYAGER” Season Three episode, ”Displaced”. But I cannot. My feelings for this episode are too strong. Let me explain.

Lisa Klink wrote the teleplay for this episode about Voyager’s crew members being replaced, one-by-one, with aliens from an unknown race. While arguing over a Klingon workout program that Chief Helmsman Tom Paris had created for the Holodeck, the pilot and Voyager’s Chief Engineer, B’ElannaTorres, are interrupted by a strange alien that has appeared aboard ship from nowhere. This phenomenon occurs over and over again, until both Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay realizes that this new alien race – called the Nyrians – are bent upon taking control of Voyager . . . but without the use of brute force. Eventually, the entire crew end up as prisoners on a habitat that also contains prisoners from other races whose ships and colonies were also conquered by the Nyrians in a similar manner.

Amidst the alien takeover of the ship, the continuation of the blossoming relationship between the ship’s Chief Helmsman, Lieutenant Tom Paris and Chief Engineer Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres hits a snag. In a previous episode called”Distant Origin”, Paris had made a bet with Torres over the reason behind a ship malfunction. The Chief Helmsman won the bet and Torres was forced to participate with him in a Klingon exercise program in the Holodeck. Being inclined to avoid her Klingon heritage as much as possible, Torres resents that Paris is interested in all aspects of her entire self – both Human and Klingon. And later in the episode, both Torres and the Doctor revealed Tom’s own insecurities and his tendency to use jokes to hide them.

Temperatures seemed to have played a major role in ”Displaced”. From Paris and Torres’ heated argument over his Klingon martial arts program to the Nyrians and Torres’ low tolerance of cold temperatures, and to finally the warm reconciliation between the two future lovers inside the Holodeck. It was good to see Voyager’s crew – especially Janeway and Tuvok – work at retaking control of Voyager by utilizing the Nyrians’ teleportation system. I especially found Janeway’s ultimatums for the Nyrian leaders inside their habitat rather satisfying.

But what really made this episode rocked – at least for me – was the continuation of Paris and Torres’ courtship that began when the Chief Pilot made his first overture in ”The Swarm”, earlier in the season. By the time ”Displaced” had aired – some twenty episodes later – Paris has been in earnest pursuit of Torres. Lisa Klink had wonderfully brought out Paris’ determination to reveal to Torres, his interest in everything about her – and that included both her Human and Klingon sides – despite how she may have felt about the latter. Klink also did an excellent job of revealing the pair’s insecurities, which ended up providing many roadblocks to their romance and eventual marriage over three years later. Late Season Three and early Season Four had featured some of the best moments in the Paris/Torres relationship. At least until Season Seven. And among those gems included scenes from this episode.

Below are what I consider highlights from ”Displaced”:

*Paris and Torres’ quarrel over the Klingon martial arts program
*Tuvok’s revelation to Chakotay about his survival training experience on Vulcan
*Chakotay’s attempts to defend the ship from the Nyrians, reliving his old role as a Maquis captain
*The Doctor’s exposure of both Paris and Torres’ insecurities inside the Nyrian habitat
*Torres’ ”I’m not hostile” conversation with Harry Kim and his fearful reaction to her tone
*Paris and Torres’ frozen adventures inside another Nyrian habitat
*Janeway and Tuvok’s efforts to gain control of the Nyrians’ teleportation system
*Janeway’s confrontation with the Nyrian leaders

As I had earlier stated, I wish I could be objective about this episode. But how can I? Even after nineteen years, I still love it. Lisa Klink’s teleplay seemed to feature everything – adventure, romance, humor, intrigue and rich characterization. It is easy to see why I consider ”Displaced” to be one of the best ”VOYAGER” episodes.

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” Retrospect: (6.26-7.01) “Unimatrix Zero, Parts I and II”

 

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” RETROSPECT: (6.26-7.01) “UNIMATRIX ZERO, PARTS I AND II”

This two-part episode of ”STAR TREK VOYAGER” centered around the Voyager crew’s attempt to save Borg drones who are trying to develop individuality. (6.26) “Unimatrix Zero, Part I” aired at the end of the series’ sixth season and (7.01) “Part II” aired as the premiere for the series’ seventh and final season.

When Seven-of-Nine began having dreams about a beautiful forest, she eventually discovered that the forest is a real subconscious realm inhabited by the minds of certain Borg drones during regeneration periods. Few drones possess the recessive gene required to experience the realm called Unimatrix Zero. In Unimatrix Zero, Borg of various species and ages exist as their individual, unassimilated selves and interact with one another. While out of regeneration, they revert to normal drones and have no memory of their time spent together there. The Borg Queen knows about Unimatrix Zero, which she considers a disease. First, she destroys as many drones as she can, who are capable of visiting it. But the process of detecting affected drones turns out to be time consuming and she is eager to find a faster method of finding and deactivating them.

During a journey to Unimatrix Zero with Captain Janeway, Seven discovers that she used to have a lover named Axum. Both women also discover that Axum had deliberately contacted Seven, because he and other drones need their help. They had created a masking nanovirus which would inoculate them against being detected by the queen, but it can only be administered from the corporeal world. After Janeway and Seven witness the attack upon the Unimatrix Zero inhabitants by assimilated drones, they agree to help. In the end, Janeway came up with a plan to administer the nanovirus for the Unimatrix Zero. This plan involved a few members of Voyager’s crew to board a Borg cube, risk being assimilated and administer the nanovirus.

When I first saw the preview for ”Unimatrix Zero – Part I, my first thought was that it was a rehash of the ”STAR TREK NEXT GENERATION” episode, (3.26-4.01) “The Best of Both Worlds”. To my surprise . . . and delight, ”Unimatrix Zero”proved me wrong. Thanks to the script written by Mike Sussman, Brannon Braga, and Joe Menosky; I quite understood the story, despite the usual Trek technobabble. And I understood how previous episodes like (5.10) “Counterpoint” and(6.21)”Live Fast and Prosper” served this story. Both episodes established Captain Janeway’s talent for manipulation and scamming other. Considering the situation that she, B’Elanna Torres and Tuvok found themselves in ”Part II”, she found herself being forced to pull off a difficult confidence game against the Borg Queen.

”Unimatrix Zero” also featured the first time that Janeway and Chakotay learned to act as a fully effective command team in the face of one of her . . . more bizarre plots without succumbing to any conflict, which marred their relations in episodes like (2.14) “Alliances”, (3.26-4.01) “Scorpion” and (6.01) “Equinox, Part II”. Although he had reservations, Chakotay seemed willing to go along with her plan to infiltrate a Borg drone to administer the nanovirus. And Janeway agreed to accept a few of his suggestions, in case the plan went wrong. And is it just me or did there seemed to be a lot of affection on Voyager in this episode? Seven discovered an old love in Unimatrix Zero. Tom Paris and Torres exchanged a few intimate moments after Paris received his old rank of lieutenant junior grade and when he expressed reservations about the chief engineer volunteering for the mission to the Borg cube. And one of the most blatant moments of sentimentality, Janeway and Chakotay engaged in a brief hand-lock on the Bridge before she left to begin her mission. I found myself almost inclined to burst into “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?”

In the end, the screenwriters and directors Allan Kroeker and Mike Vejar almost produced a four-star episode in ”Unimatrix Zero”. I found the writers’ idea of using the Unimatrix Zero concept as a lead-in to an uprising in the Borg Collective very inventive. And there were moments in the story – especially in ”Part II” that I enjoyed. These moments included the use of neural suppressors by the Starfleet infiltrators to keep from being part of the Borg Collective, in case they ended up being assimilated. Janeway’s confrontations with the Borg Queen, thanks to performances by Kate Mulgrew and Susanna Thompson, were even more effective than they were in (5.15-5.16) “Dark Frontier”. I also have to give kudos to Robert Beltran and Robert Duncan MacNeill who gave excellent performances in a scene that featured an exchange between Chakotay and Paris about the latter being First Officer. I found myself wondering about the thoughts going in Chakotay’s mind, when Paris revealed his hang-ups about being Voyager’s First Office. The only aspect of ”Unimatrix Zero” that I did not care for was the romance between Seven-of-Nine and Axum. Their scenes struck me as a replay of many bad romance novels from the 1950s and 60s. And even the talented Jeri Ryan and actor Mark Deakins could not save this romance.

Thankfully, the Seven/Axum romance did not tarnish ”Unimatrix Zero” for me. More important, the episode set the stage for two episodes in Season Seven that revealed the diminished power of the Borg Collective. And it proved to be the second of three mind blowing personal encounters between Kathryn Janeway and the Borg Queen. In the end, ”Unimatrix Zero” proved to be another example of why I have always enjoyed the numerous two-part episodes featured in ”STAR TREK VOYAGER”.