“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”.

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” RETROSPECT – (4.23) “Living Witness”

livingwitness_291

 

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” RETROSPECT – (4.23) “Living Witness”

The STAR TREK franchise has aired a good number of episodes featuring the “Mirror Universe” – an existence in which the Federation is solely a Human-controlled, fascist empire. This universe was first introduced in the “STAR TREK” Season Two episode, (2.04) “Mirror, Mirror”. The “Mirror Universe” was also featured in several “STAR TREK DEEP SPACE NINE” episodes and most memorably in an “ENTERPRISE” episode called (4.18-4.19) “In a Mirror Darkly”.

There have been parallel universe episodes featured in both “STAR TREK: NEXT GENERATION” and “STAR TREK VOYAGER”. But none of these episodes featured the “Mirror Universe”. But if there was an episode that could almost seem part of the “Mirror Universe”, it would have to be the Season Four “VOYAGER” episode called (4.23) “Living Witness”. Directed by cast member Tim Russ, the episode began with an “evil” Captain Kathryn Janeway negotiating a deal with Vaskan ambassador Daleth. He wants to use Voyager’s fire power in a war against the Vaskans about fighting a war with their Kyrian neighbors. In exchange, he will give Janeway directions to a wormhole that can get the U.S.S. Voyager closer to home. Janeway and Daleth come to an agreement. But the Federation crew’s violent and aggressive methods lead Daleth to harbor second thoughts about the deal, especially after a Away team led by Chakotay managed to kidnap the Kyrian leader Tedran and a few of his followers . . . and Janeway murdered them in an effort to garner information about the Kyrian resistance movement.

It turned out that the above scenario was merely a historical simulation of the incident created by a 31st century Kyrian historian named Quarren. Sometime in 2374, the U.S.S. Voyager actually had an encounter with the warring Vaskans and Kyrians, in which the real Tedran and a handful of followers managed to board the Federation starship in order to stop what they believed was a weapons deal. The encounter resulted in Voyager losing a few debris, including a backup module of the Doctor’s program. Using tools from Voyager, Quarren was able to activate the Doctor and discovered that he had been wrong about Janeway and the crew, along with their actual encounter with the 24th century Kyrians and Vaskans. The Doctor’s revelation about the truth regarding the two species’ encounter with Voyager led to another outbreak of violence that resulted in the near destruction of the Kyrian museum for which Quarren served as curator. Using one of the museum’s artifacts, a Federation medical tricorder, as a source of information; the Doctor and Quarren eventually set matters straight.

I cannot say that “Living Witness” will ever be considered one of my favorite episodes of “STAR TREK VOYAGER”. However, I must admit that I view it as one of the best episodes from Season Four. On one level, it allowed the series the opportunity to present its own version of a mirror universe – similar to those episodes featured in “STAR TREK”, “STAR TREK DEEP SPACE NINE” and “ENTERPRISE”. But on a deeper level, it questioned the validity of written history and considered the possibility that a great deal of history has been written by those with a particular point-of-view or agenda. Screenwriters Bryan Fuller, Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky’s portrayal of Quarren and the Kyrians seemed to hint this approach.

Looking at Quarren’s take on the Voyager crew as military and political monsters, I found myself wondering why the series never featured an actual “Mirror Universe” episode. Perhaps in that universe, circumstances prevented an actual Federation starship from being catapulted into the Delta Quadrant. Pity. When I first saw this episode, I was surprised to see that the mirror Voyager had a few Kazons as part of its crew. The Quarren character made an interesting comment: “Voyager had many weapons at their disposal, including species they’d assimilated along the way–Borg, Talaxian, Kazon. They were captured and made to work as part of Voyager’s fighting force.” The ironic thing about this comment is that the same could be said about the real Voyager crew. Think about it. Even before the starship got pulled into the Delta Quadrant, Kathryn Janeway collected her first wayward individual – Thomas Eugene Paris. After the starship ended up in the Delta Quadrant, she collected other individuals, who became members of her crew – Chakotay and the Maquis crew under his command, Neelix, Kes, Seven-of-Nine, Icheb and the other Borg children.

However, there is one aspect of “Living Witness” that I found slightly disturbing. After my recent viewing of the episode, I came away with the uncomfortable feeling that the screenwriters – especially Brannon Braga – harbored a low opinion of what they considered “revisionist history”. What exactly is revisionist history . . . or historical revisionism? According to Wikipedia, it “is the reinterpretation of orthodox views on evidence, motivations, and decision-making processes surrounding a historical event. Though the word revisionism is sometimes used in a negative way, constant revision of history is part of the normal scholarly process of writing history.” Namely, some of the traditional history we learned from textbooks in the past have been “revised” or reinterpreted, when new material comes to light . . . or in some cases, when certain parties want to revise a past negative view of historical personages or events. Historical revisionism can be both positive or negative. Braga, Fuller and Menowsky seemed bent upon presenting revisionist history as something completely negative.

Although the episode featured both negative actions committed by both the Vaskans and Kyrians, only the Kyrians have been portrayed as unlikable or in a negative light. Even after the Doctor made it clear that Ambassador Daleth was responsible for the death of Kyrian leader Tedran seven hundred years earlier; the Vaskans kept their cool and demanded more of the truth, while the Kyrians reacted angrily to the Doctor’s deconstruction of Quarren’s earlier summations of the incident with Voyager. I found that odd. The screenplay portrayed the Vaskans as cool-headed, logical and desirous of the truth. Their only reason for sacking Quarren’s museum was due to their angry belief that his historical theories were wrong. The Kyrians reacted with less ration – including Quarren, himself. And more importantly, the Doctor made a peculiar comment. He said the following in a caustic voice –“Revisionist history…it’s such a comfort.” What were Braga and the other writers trying to say? That revisionist history is something to ignore altogether . . . and that it is better to simply blindly accept the history presented in the old textbooks of the past? I feel that the screenwriters should have considered the possibility that revisionist history could be both good and bad – considering what history is being revised, and whether that revised history has evidence to back up the scholars’ claims. Is that so hard?

There is one thing I can say about “Living History” – it featured some first-class acting by the cast and the episode’s guest stars. Roxann Dawson was missing from the episode, due to her recovering from the birth of her daughter. But the rest of the cast were a hoot as the “evil” counterparts of the Voyager crew. I was especially impressed by Robert Beltran’s take on the evil, yet “compassionate” Chakotay; and the insidious humor expressed by Tuvok’s evil counterpart. Kate Mulgrew was frightening as the evil Kathryn Janeway. The woman could have scared the living daylights out of the Borg Queen and Chancellor/Emperor Palpatine. And Rod Arrants was very effective in presenting two completely different aspects of the Ambassador Daleth character. But the episode really belonged to Robert Picardo and guest star Henry Woronicz. Not only were both outstanding as the Doctor from the backup module and Kyrian historian Quarren, but the relationship they developed between the two characters proved to be the heart and soul of this episode.

I think “Living History” could have been a personal favorite of mine, if the screenplay did not seem hellbent upon viewing revisionist history as some kind of scholarly evil, instead of something that is a lot more complex . . . like everything else in this world. But it still proved to be a well-made episode that featured excellent direction by cast member Tim Russ, superb performances by the cast and an interesting peek into what a “Mirror Universe” Voyager could have been. And I still believe it is one of the best episodes from the series’ Season Four.

Top 10 Favorite Episodes of the “STAR TREK” Television Franchise

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Below is a list of my ten favorite episodes from all five “STAR TREK” television series:

TOP 10 FAVORITE EPISODES OF THE “STAR TREK” TELEVISION FRANCHISE

1 - 5.12 The Bride of Chaotica VOY

1. (5.12 VOY) “The Bride of Chaotica!” – Ensign Tom Paris’ latest holodeck adventure, “The Adventures of Captain Proton”, takes an unexpected turn when the U.S.S. Voyager gets stuck in an interdimensional reef in this hilarious and imaginative episode.

2 - 4.18-4.19 In a Mirror Darkly ENT

2. (4.18-4.19 ENT) “In a Mirror, Darkly” – This surprisingly entertaining two-part episode features the back-stabbing antics of Jonathan Archer’s Enterprise crew in the saga’s Mirror Universe.

3 - 3.16 Blood Fever VOY

3. (3.16 VOY) “Blood Fever” – While enduring pon farr, a lovesick Ensign Vorik unexpectedly passes it to Chief Engineer B’Elanna Torres, affecting her relationship with Tom Paris during an Away mission.

4 - 4.10 Our Man Bashir DS9

4. (4.10 DS9) “Our Man Bashir” – While playing a 1960s secret agent inside one of Deep Space Nine’s holosuites, he is forced to make life and death decisions for those crew members, whose transporter patterns are stored in the program during an emergency in this wildly entertaining episode.

5 - 4.07 Scientific Method VOY

5. (4.07 VOY) “Scientific Method” – Unseen alien intruders used Voyager’s crew as specimens for series of experiments that affect their physical and mental health in this weird and spooky episode.

6 - 6.19 In the Pale Moonlight DS9

6. (6.19 DS9) “In the Pale Moonlight” – This fascinating episode depicted Captain Benjamin Sisko and former Cardassian spy Elim Garak’s efforts to manipulate the Romulans into joining the Federation in its war against the Dominion.

7 - 1.28 City on the Edge of Forever TOS

7. (1.28 TOS) “City on the Edge of Forever” – In this Hugo Award winning episode, Captain James Kirk and Commander Spock are forced to go back in time to the early 1930s to prevent Dr. Leonard McCoy from changing time, when the latter accidentally disappears through a time portal, while heavily drugged.

8 - 5.10 Rapture DS9

8. (5.10 DS9) “Rapture” – An accident causes Captain Sisko to have prophetic visions involving the Bajorans’ religious beliefs and their future with the Federation.

9 - 5.18 Cause and Effect TNG

9. (5.18 TNG) “Cause and Effect” – The U.S.S. Enterprise-D becomes stuck in a time loop involving another Starfleet ship, but the crew manages to retain some memories of previous instances.

10 - 7.24 Pre-emptive Strike

10. (7.24 TNG) “Pre-emptive Strike” – In this bittersweet episode, helmsman Lieutenant Ro Laren graduates from Starfleet’s advance tactical training and is eventually ordered by Captain Jean-Luc Picard to infiltrate the Maquis and lure its members into a trap set by Starfleet.

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” RETROSPECT: (4.08-4.09) “The Year of Hell”

 

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” RETROSPECT: (4.08-4.09) “The Year of Hell”

While reading some of the TREK forums and message boards over the years, I have noticed that many fans seemed to harbor mixed views of the “STAR TREK VOYAGER” Season Four two-part episode called (4.08-4.09) “The Year of Hell”

“The Year of Hell” began with the U.S.S. Voyager entering Krenim space, the same region of space that the former Ocampan crewman, Kes, had warned about in the Season Three episode called (3.21) “Before and After”. Only Kes’ description of Krenim space was set in an alternate timeline in which a very powerful race came dangerously close to destroying Voyager within a year. The Krenim space encountered by the Federation starship at the beginning of this episode seemed a lot more benign . . . until something or someone alters the timeline.

Unbeknownst to Voyager’s crew, a Krenim military scientist named Annorax had developed a weapon ship designed to create temporal incursions. He used the to supervise the complete genocide of the Zahl, an enemy race that had ended the Krenim’s status as a dominant power in their region of the Delta Quadrant. But the erasure of the Zahl nearly caused the destruction of the Krenim. Annorax’s attempt to undo his actions led to the erasure of other worlds . . . and his wife from existence. And for two centuries, he has been creating one causality paradox after another in an attempt to get his wife back. However, one of Annorax’s actions allowed a formerly harmless Krenim ship that Voyager had encountered at the beginning of the episode to develop into a powerful starship and inflict heavy damage upon the Federation ship. In this new timeline, Janeway and the rest of Voyager’s crew are forced to endure a “year of hell”, as they struggle to survive.

Screenwriters Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky created a fascinating and complex tale of what could have befallen Voyager if some of Kes’ experiences in “Before and After” had occurred in their regular timeline. There have been occasions in which Voyager’s crew had encountered more powerful alien vessels and societies. The starship was also captured by alien forces on two or more occasions. “The Year of Hell” featured the second time that Kathryn Janeway and her crew were forced to survive for a period of time in a damaged starship. But “The Year of Hell” took place during a period of nearly an entire year. Watching Voyager’ become an increasingly uninhabitable vessel struck me as both fascinating and depressing. By the time Voyager was left with its senior staff (sans the kidnapped First Officer and Chief Pilot) after Janeway sent the rest of crew away in life pods, it had become a desolate place to be.

Braga and Menosky provided the episode with plenty of complex drama and characterizations. Kate Mulgrew gave an outstanding performance as a besieged Kathryn Janeway, determined to keep her crew alive and ship together by any means possible. Even if it meant sacrificing her health and sanity. The other outstanding performance came from guest star Kurtwood Smith, who portrayed the Krenim scientist, Annorax. Like Mulgrew, Smith portrayed his character as a leader determined to save or protect those he held dear – his species, his homeworld and especially his family. Unlike Janeway, Annorax’s determination led to a more tragic conclusion. Both Janeway and Annorax – on a larger scale – reminded me a great deal of the Captain Nemo character from Jules Verne’s 1870 novel, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”.

The supporting cast were given plenty of opportunities to shine. The best performances came from Tim Russ (Lieutenant-Commander Tuvok), Robert Beltran (Commander Chakotay), Robert Duncan McNeill (Lieutenant Paris) and Robert Picardo (the Doctor). Both Chakotay and Paris found themselves as prisoners aboard Annorax’s time ship in Part II of the episode. This situation gave Beltran an opportunity to convey Chakotay’s dismay at Annorax’s abuse of temporal mechanics and his desire to help the Krenim scientist restore the damaged timeline. McNeill was excellent in portraying Paris’ dismay at Chakotay’s cooperation and impatient desire to stop Annorax and find Voyager. Russ gave a poignant performance as the uber-efficient Tuovk, who is forced to depend upon Seven-of-Nine as his guide after he lost his sight in an explosion. Picardo had two juicy scenes in which he gave it his all, involving the Doctor’s moral dilemma in sacrificing several crewman in order to save a few and himself from the destruction of one of the ship’s decks; and the Doctor’s confrontation with Janeway over her careless attitude toward her health. Roxann Dawson, Garrett Wang and Jeri Ryan provided a bit of fun in a comedic scene in which Ensign Harry Kim, an injured Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres and Seven-of-Nine recalled a bit of Federation history from the 1996 movie, “STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT”. And second guest star John Loprieno was excellent in his portrayal of Obrist, Annorax’s first officer who becomes increasingly dismayed by the scientist’s abuse of the time ship.

Unfortunately for “The Year of Hell”, it has accumulated a good deal of negative comments about its ending. The mixed opinions of the entire episode stemmed from an ending that many fans viewed as a cop out. When Seven-of-Nine discovered a chroniton torpedo in one of the ship’s Jeffries tubes, the crew realized they had been the victims of temporal manipulations. Seven used a devise on the torpedo to successfully shield Voyager against Annorax’s time ship and any future temporal changes. However in Part II, Captain Janeway made an alliance with two species to attack the Krenim timeship. The remaining crew members move to the allied ships, while Janeway remained behind alone on Voyager to pilot the heavily damaged ship herself. After learning that the Krenim ship’s temporal core had been placed offline and theorizing that the true timeline will be restored if the Krenim ship is destroyed, Janeway ordered the fleet to drop their temporal shields before ramming Voyager into the time ship. Her actions destroyed Voyager, caused the time ship to destabilize and erase from history . . . and reset the timeline to the day Voyager first encountered the temporal waves.

Many TREK fans accused the episode’s writers of using the “reset button” to restore Voyager to its original timeline and erase the one featuring the year of hell. They also criticized Braga and Menosky for this act. Braga also did not want to use the “reset button” device. He wanted Voyager to remain wrecked for the rest of Season Four. But he failed to get his way, thanks to Paramount and producer Rick Berman. I do recall a fan fiction – a coda to the Season Seven episode (7.11) “Shattered” – that left Chakotay lost in time and both Janeway and Tuvok dead. As the new captain, Tom Paris was forced to land Voyager on an “M” class and order repairs on the ship that lasted for a year or more.

Recalling the state of Voyager in the alternate timeline, I saw no other fate for the ship if Janeway had not reset time.“Before and After” saw Voyager still traveling through Krenim space, despite its condition after nearly a year. But it did not look as damaged as it did right before the time reset in “The Year of Hell”. The idea of a wrecked Voyager still traveling through space after nearly a year . . . strikes me as illogical. And how did Braga plan to deal with Annorax and the time ship? Did he have plans for the Krenim scientist to remain the series’ main adversary for the rest of Season Four? Did he have plans for a series of plotlines featuring the adventures of the Voyager crew on an “M” class planet, while they repair the ship?

I am not saying that I am against the idea of time NOT being reset. But I still have bad memories of the early Season Three episodes of “BATTLESTAR GALACTICA”, in which some of the colonists ended up as prisoners of the Cylons on some planet. And combining that with the knowledge of the “reset button” being used on many occasions, I find it difficult to get upset over the ending for “The Year of Hell”. More importantly, I find it difficult to understand the fans and critics’ reactions to the use of the “reset button”. I guess I still find it so ridiculously strident, especially since such use of the plot device had been used so many times.

As far as I am concerned, “The Year of Hell” was a pretty damn good episode that featured an interesting twist on the Captain Nemo character and the alternate timeline subplot. It also featured superb performances from Kate Mulgrew and Kurtwood Smith, and some excellent acting from the rest of the cast. I am not surprised that it has remained one of my favorite episodes from the series’ Season Four.

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” Retrospect: (5.21) “Juggernaut”

 

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” Retrospect: (5.21) “Juggernaut”

When I first saw (5.21) “Juggernaut”, I did not like it. Not at all. Who could like an episode in which one of the characters indulges in a temper tantrum throughout the entire story, while stuck in some space vessel leaking from radiation? 

Mind you, I had been new to “STAR TREK VOYAGER”, when “Juggernaut” first aired. It was the third or fourth episode of the series I had ever seen. After seeing it for a second time, I had revised my opinion of the episode. I still do not consider it as a favorite “VOYAGER” episode of mine. But I thought it was interesting and found myself sympathizing with the main character in this episode – Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres.

In “Juggernaut”, Voyager responds to a distress call of a heavily-damaged Malon freighter. Torres, Neelix, Commander Chakotay, and the only two surviving Malons have six hours to stop a Theta-radiation fallout, which will destroy everything within a three light-year radius. The Away-team must clear the radiation, section-by-section, to reach the control room, and along the way they deal with unstable airlocks and the Vihaar, a Malon boogeyman who is more malicious than mythical. As for B’Elanna, she has to deal with an increasing bad temper that seemed to have gripped her.

As one who has spent so many years struggling to keep my temper in check and failing, I understood what B’Elanna was going through. Clearly, she was going through a bad day. It must have been frustrating to hear lectures from everyone about keeping her temper in check. Whenever someone said the same to me, my temper became even more explosive. And I saw the same happening to B’Elanna. Many of Voyager’s crew really did not understand her, did they? Especially Chakotay. It still amazes me that he and B’Elanna had been friends for so many years and he never really understood her. Sometimes I wonder if he ever wanted to try. Of the entire Voyager crew, it seems only Tom Paris and Neelix were capable of soothing her temper. Perhaps that was due to the fact that they seemed to accept B’Elanna as she was and did not try to change her. Janeway wanted her (and just about everyone else) to be the epitome of a Starfleet officer. Tuvok wanted B’Elanna to adapt Vulcan methods of dealing with her temper. Her other best friend Ensign Harry Kim seemed to have accepted her as she was . . . until she lost her temper and he did a fast disappearing act. And I never knew what Chakotay wanted her to be. Perhaps the ultimate Starfleet officer? The perfect Maquis freedom fighter? Completely Human? Who knows, but it seemed quite obvious he was never satisfied with her.

Some critics have complained that “Juggernaut” only showcased B’Elanna at her worst. They also complained that the episode never allowed her to save the day, using her engineering skills. Personally? Who cares??? This episode was about B’Elanna’s personal psyche, not her skills as an engineer. Fans already knew that B’Elanna was a good engineer. The series has conveyed scenes of both her and Seven or Harry working on projects together with a great deal of success (and it’s about time!). I suppose screenwriters Bryan Fuller, Nick Sagan and Kenneth Biller, along with director Allan Kroeker and the producers had intended this episode to be about B’Elanna’s control or lack of control of her temper. Instead, I found myself realizing that very few people on that ship really understand her.

The story struck me as pretty good, although I have some doubts about the pacing. I must admit that I found it odd Voyager would encounter the Malon again (their first encounter happened in the season premiere – (5.01) “Night”), especially after using the Borg transwarp conduit in (5.16) “Dark Frontier”. Fortunately, the writers brought up that issue by having Voyager’s crew express surprise by the Malons’ appearance. The pacing seemed a little off in the episode’s second half. And I could have done without the radiation “monster” lurking within the Malon freighter. It sounded like something right out of “ALIEN”. And I would have prefer for B’Elanna to re-enact with the Malon core worker a little more, before she was forced to beat him senseless.

Aside from my few quibbles, I must admit that I have a higher regard for “Juggernaut” than I originally did. Despite some of the pacing and a few misguided plot points, I must commend the screenwriters for creating an interesting character study for the B’Elanna Torres character. And I have to admit that Roxann Dawson did an excellent job in continuing to carry the complexities of her character. Overall, I believe it was a pretty decent episode.

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” Retrospective: (3.26-4.01) “Scorpion”

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” RETROSPECT: (3.26-4.01) “Scorpion”

After three seasons, the series “STAR TREK VOYAGER” entered into a new era with the two-part episode, (3.26-4.01) “Scorpion”. In “Scorpion”, the crew of the U.S.S. Voyager finally reaches Borg space after three seasons – an event that would serve as a turning point for the series.

Aired at the end of Season Three and the beginning of Season Four, “Scorpion” finds the Voyager entering Borg space. To the crew’s surprise, they discover that the Borg is engaged in a major conflict with another alien race called Species 8472. An even more discovery awaits when Captain Kathryn Janeway and her crew learn that the Borg is losing its war with Species 8472. But when the crew’s Ocampa nurse, Kes, receives hostile telepathic messages from Species 8472 and when Operation Officer Ensign Harry Kim has an encounter with a member of Species 8472 that nearly costs him his life, Janeway decides that the only way for Voyager to survive this new conflict is to form an alliance with the Borg that would guarantee the ship’s safe passage through Borg space.

Written by Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky, and directed by David Livingston (“Part I”) and Winrich Kolbe (“Part II”); “Scorpion” turned out to be an excellent story that is regarded as the best two-part episode in the entire series by TREK fans. Personally, I do not share this particular opinion. But I must admit that it was first-rate. As I had stated earlier, “Scorpion” served as a turning point for “STAR TREK VOYAGER”. First of all, the episode featured Voyager’s first encounter with Species 8472. The episode – at least “Part II” introduced new crewmember, Seven-of-Nine aka Annika Hansen. Consequences from Janeway’s alliance with the Borg not left her with a new crewmember, but would end up having consequences in future episodes such as (4.16) “Prey”(4.26) “Hope and Fear”(5.04) “In the Flesh” and (5.15-5.16) “Dark Frontier”.

The emotional consequences of “Scorpion” was also well-handled by the screenwriters and the directors. One thing, the episode revealed that aside from the “Q” Continuum, a race more powerful than the Borg existed in “TREK” universe. Many fans saw the weakening of the Borg in the following “VOYAGER” episodes as something to mourn. I find this opinion amazing, considering that an episode highly popular with the fans, would prove to provide the first real sign of weakness with in the Borg. I had no problem with the gradual weakening of the Borg. If the Borg had remained the near unbeatable nemesis first introduced in “STAR TREK NEXT GENERATION”, their story arc would have remained stuck in perpetual stagnation. And it only seemed proper that the Borg’s gradual decline would occur on “VOYAGER”, considering that the series was set in the Delta Quadrant, their base of operation. There were other aspects of “Scorpion” that I found admirable – namely Jeffrey Baxter and Dick Brownfield’s special effects, along with Marvin V. Rush’s cinematography that greatly enhanced the sequences featuring the Borg’s confrontations with Species 8472.

“Scorpion” also revealed that the Janeway/Chakotay command team had yet to be fully been realized by the end of Season Three. When I first saw this episode, it amazed me that the Captain and her First Officer had failed to perfect a command style, after three years in the Delta Quadrant. Now I realized that I should not have been surprised. Janeway and Chakotay spent the first two seasons trying to merge the Starfleet and Maquis factions of the ship’s crew. Once the two factions learned to regard themselves as one crew , both Janeway and Chakotay spent all of Season Three congratulating themselves for achieving this fusion and ignoring the fact that they had yet learned to create a stable command team. They only had one misstep during Season Three – namely Chakotay’s experiences with a colony of former Borg drones in (3.17) “Unity”. Seasons One and Two served as Janeway and Chakotay’s attempts to fuse Voyager’s two factions into one. Season Three served as their honeymoon. But during Seasons Four and Five – starting with “Scorpion” – the two senior officers were finally forced to confront each other’s personality quirks and form a solid command team.

Both Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay made serious mistakes in “Scorpion”. Janeway blindly refused to accept Chakotay’s warnings about the Borg, believing that her position as Captain made her supremely right. She also allowed her disappointment in Chakotay’s doubts to blind her and take his criticisms personally. As for Chakotay, he allowed his past experiences with the former Borg drones in “Unity” to disobey Janeway and literally make a mess of the alliance she had formed with the Borg. It is possible that in this episode, he made a lousy First Officer, because he had yet to recover from no longer being the Captain of his old Maquis starship. Now, I do not expect the First Officer to follow his/her captain blindly. It might make for great screen chemistry, but in reality, I cannot help thinking that would be a dangerous situation. Imagine how the crew of the “U.S.S. Caine” would have fared if Van Johnson had blindly followed Bogart in 1954’s “THE CAINE MUTINY”. Or how would the U.S.S. Enterprise-E have fared if Doctor Beverly Crusher, Lieutenant-Commander Worf and Lily Sloane had allowed Picard to continue his obsession against the Borg in 1996’s “STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT”. I cannot help but feel that this conflict between Janeway and Chakotay should have been experienced by their first or second year together as Captain and First Officer. Not after three years. But unusual circumstances – namely their efforts to fuse the Starfleet and Maquis factions – prevented this.

Before I end this article, I have to comment on the acting featured in this episode. The supporting cast gave their usual solid performances – especially Tim Russ as Lieutenant Tuvok, Garrett Wang as Harry Kim, Jennifer Lien as Kes and Robert Picardo as the Doctor. But the truly outstanding performances came from three people – Kate Mulgrew, Robert Beltran and Jeri Ryan. The latter would prove to be an interesting addition to the “VOYAGER” cast as the ambiguous soon-to-be former drone, Seven-of-Nine. Beltran, who has always been belittled by “TREK” fans as a wooden performer, was far from wooden as a doubtful and paranoid Chakotay. Kate Mulgrew gave an equally first-rate performance as always complex and interesting Kathryn Janeway.

In a way, I can see why “Scorpion” is regarded by many “VOYAGER” fans as the high mark of the series. It is a well-written episode that steered the series into a new direction. But there are other two-part episodes that are bigger favorites of mine. I would not regard “Scorpion” as the high mark of “VOYAGER”, but perhaps as one of the series’ high marks.

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” Retrospective: (5.12 “Bride of Chaotica!”)

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” Retrospective: (5.12 “Bride of Chaotica!”)

One of the aspects of ”STAR TREK VOYAGER” that I have truly enjoyed over the other ”TREK” shows were the holoprograms featured or the episodes centered in the two Holodecks. One such holo program was ”The Adventures of Captain Proton”stories created by Voyager’s Chief Pilot, Tom Paris. Captain Proton was featured in at least four episodes – three in Season Five and one in Season Seven. But without a doubt, my favorite happened to be the third Proton story titled, ”Bride of Chaotica!”

In short, (5.12) ”Bride of Chaotica!” began when Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeil) and Harry Kim (Garrett Wang) are enjoying the latest chapter of his Captain Proton program in one of the Holodecks. They are forced to leave it running when spatial distortions trap the ship and disrupt their control over the computer. Voyager’s command staff attempted to discover a way to free the ship from the spatial distortions. Unfortunately, extra-dimensional aliens that exist in a photonic state cross over from their own dimension through a distortion located in the holodeck. They are detected and attacked by Proton’s archenemy, Dr. Chaotica (Martin Rayner), who believes them to be from the Fifth Dimension, and whose holographic (photonic) weaponry – though harmless to humans – is deadly to the aliens. Eventually, the crew discover the war being waged between Chaotica and the Fifth Dimension and must defeat him by playing out their roles as the fictional Captain Proton (played by Tom Paris), his sidekick Buster Kincaid (Harry Kim), and Arachnia, Queen of the Spider People. Paris convinced Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) to take on the latter role.

I might as well be frank. I LOVE ”Bride of Chaotica!”. I adore it. It is one of my favorite ”TREK” episodes of all time. What am I saying? It is my favorite ”TREK” episode of all time. Screenwriters Bryan Fuller (creator of ”DEAD LIKE ME” and ”PUSHING DAISIES”) and Michael Taylor created a first-rate episode filled with imagination, action and humor. Having the characters of Tom Paris’ Captain Proton holoprogram get drawn into a galactic war with an actual group of actual aliens that are photonic was a stroke of genius. And Fuller and Taylor, along with director Allan Kroeker, did an excellent job combining an original story with great characterization.

The cast was excellent, as always. Robbie McNeill and Garrett Wang revived their old magic as Tom and Harry – the two crewmembers who got more out of the Captain Proton holoprogram than anyone. Come to think of it, McNeill also managed to generate strong chemistry with Tim Russ (Lieutenant-Commander Tuvok) and Kate Mulgrew. The latter was superb as Queen Arachnia, although I think she may have been a little guilty of too much mugging, while expressing Janeway’s disregard for the Proton holoprogram. However, I loved her scene with Neelix (Ethan Phillips) that showcased Janeway’s caffine addiction. With that scene, she may have truly earned the nickname – Queen of the Delta Quadrant:

JANEWAY: “Coffee, black.”
NEELIX: “I’m sorry, Captain. We’ve lost another two replicators –”
JANEWAY: “Listen to me very carefully because I’m only going to say this once. Coffee – black.”
NEELIX: (To replicator)”Coffee, black. While I’ve got your attention there are –”
JANEWAY: (Holds up hand)”Coffee first.”(drinks/inhales)”…Now, what’s the problem?”

And then there is Dr. Chaotica, portrayed with great relish by Martin Rayner. The promise he had shown as a rich and over-the-top character in the Season Five premiere, ”Night” was fulfilled in this episode. The late Nicholas Worth ably supported both Mulgrew and Rayner as Chaotica’s ruthless, obsequious henchman, Lonzak.

As much as I love ”Bride of Chaotica!”, there is one aspect about it that disturbed me – namely the crew’s reaction to the Captain Proton hologram. It is quite apparent that they view it as nothing more than a childish piece of fiction for those of the immature mind. And it is quite apparent that they also view Tom Paris’ participation in it as childish. And they are not the only ones. I have read some reviews of the episodes. While most tend to sneer at it, along with anything labeled ”STAR TREK VOYAGER”, at least two of them did not. Julia Houston seemed to view the holoprogram not only as Tom Paris’ personal fantasy, but also as an example of his imagination. Like me, she seemed annoyed by the inability of others to appreciate Paris’ imagination . . . and his right to his own fantasy. Now Jim Wright did seem to enjoy the holoprogram and appreciate its uniqueness. But it also seemed that he viewed it as a sign of Paris’ immaturity . . . and as something that the Chief Pilot would have to give up in order to develop as an adult.

Quite frankly, I agree with Julia Houston. I was very annoyed by the other Voyager crewmen’s snobbish reaction to Captain Proton. Okay, perhaps they did not care for it very much. But was there really any need for them to openly sneer at what he considered recreation and fantasy? What law was there that Tom’s pursuit of recreation had to be culturally high-brow or meaningful? Janeway, of all people, had no business to sneer. This is a woman who had spent two seasons indulging in her Lambada One holoprogram – a ”Jane Eyre”/”Rebecca” Gothic romance. I must also admit that I was a little put-off by Jim Wright’s assumption that Tom needed to give up the Proton program in order to become more mature as an adult. To me, this attitude seemed like a clear lack of appreciation for Tom’s vivid imagination. Perhaps it was more important to him and other”VOYAGER” fans that Tom become the stand-up Starfleet officer that Owen Paris and Janeway wanted him to be. Happily, Tom never stuck to his declaration of giving up the Proton program. He and Harry were still using it in early Season Six (see”Alice”). And a late Season Seven episode called ”Homestead” revealed that Tom had created another B-movie style program called “Invaders from the Ninth Dimension.”

Personally, I like the idea that Tom Paris would eventually become that successful holonovelist sometime in his future. But in the VOYAGER relaunch novels, he became a permanent Starfleet officer, achieving the rank of Lieutenant-Commander and Voyager’s new first officer. Ugh. What a waste of a vivid imagination that created the likes of the Proton holoprograms. In real life, I would compare Tom to the likes of George Lucas, Gene Roddenberry, J. Michael Stracynski and the two writers who had created this wonderfully imaginative episode – Fuller and Taylor. A girl can imagine – can’t she?