Star Trek: Voyager – Season 1, Episode 5 – “Phage” – An Introduction to a Fascinating Antagonist With the Story Brought Down by Neelix

    “Phage” gives us one of the best antagonists to come out of “Voyager.” I’ll get into them in the review but their compelling backstory and complex motivations make them fascinating. It is a shame that the one they hurt is Neelix when Neelix does everything in this episode to make sure you’ll hate him. Luckily the episode doesn’t hinge on Neelix as Janeway, Chakotay, The Doctor and Kes all get some great development this episode.

The episode was directed by Winrich Koble with Teleplay by Skye Dent and Brannon Braga and story by Timothy DeHaas.

The story follows Voyager when they investigate a planet for dilithium, as they are in need of resources. When Neelix goes with the away team his lungs are stolen by a mysterious alien leaving the crew to rush to stop get back his lungs or find a way for him to live.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Captain Janeway and Chakotay – This episode starts out really strong before we get to Neelix. We have Janeway and Chakotay talking to each other about breakfast and you get an idea of how they’ve been roughing it since the replicators broke (they are on replicator rations). It is a sweet moment that adds dimension to their relationship which helps as Chakotay leads the away team and is the main crewmember investigating this mysterious threat.

The Doctor and Kes – The Doctor is really humanized in this episode as we realize that he has no help beyond Tom Paris. This leads to Kes advocating for him in order to be his nurse so he isn’t alone. It is really in the moments where Neelix is being a dick to him and his extreme patience and Kes advocating for him that show how he is more than a program. I’m glad Kes became his aid as he did need it and their relationship is neat as Kes is really the first character to really recognize his humanity and rights. Also Picardo’s charm is on display as he rolls his eyes at how annoying Neelix is. The Doctor is easily one of my favorite characters on “Voyager.”

The Vidiians – The Vidiians are a fantastic antagonist. You have a species dying from a phage that has decimated and continues to destroy their population. Their only way to live is by harvesting organs from other lifeforms. They are in constant pain because of the phage and because of it do not fear death. I think it is this lack of fear (and their saving of Neelix by transplanting Kes’s lung in him) that leads to Captain Janeway letting them go. Suffice to say, they do show up again as a threat.

The Cons:

Neelix – Neelix is the worst part of this episode. He is selfish (keeps going on how Kes just wants to be with Paris) and is complaining all the time the Doctor and starts out the episode taking over an area of the ship to cook. His losing his lungs happens because he refused to listen to Chakotay too. Chakotay told him to pull back and he refused to listen. Seriously this episode only has Neelix as a negative and is a great example of why I’m not a fan of the character.

This is an enjoyable episode that is nearly good. It has so much going for it but having far too much time with Neelix and not enough time developing the aspects that worked kept it from getting to good or great. If you are a fan of “Voyager” it still one I recommend though. The Vidiians are a fascinating antagonist and I wish they could have got more stories in “Voyager.” They were one of the few original aliens that really made a mark on the series.

FInal Score: 7.8 / 10

Star Trek: Voyager – Season 2, Episode 23 – “The Thaw” – Facing Fear

The Thaw (episode) | Memory Alpha | Fandom

     “The Thaw” is an example of quality early “Voyager.” This episode does a lot with less and manages to be both creepy and unsettling. For any person who is afraid of clowns, this is not an episode I’d recommend. As far as vibes, quite a bit of this episode feels like “Twin Peaks” and that only strengthens the overall narrative and stakes. This is an episode where a fantastic antagonist, drives the action of the story. Before I get into spoilers, I definitely recommend this episode to any “Voyager” fans.

The episode was directed by Marvin V. Rush and teleplay by Joe Menosky and story by Richard Gadas.

The story involves the crew following a distress signal and attempting to rescue 3 aliens caught in Stasis. They soon find themselves trapped with them as they face off against the A.I. created by the minds of the aliens and feeds off their fears.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The premise is really neat as the idea of alien minds running a computer and from creating the threat that must be faced immediately has stakes. All the Clown that is fear needs is one mind and he can continue living forever and he is far more willing to kill than Voyager. The presentation of fear as being an ongoing carnival run by a clown and his minions is also sufficiently spooky.

The Aliens – The aliens we meet don’t have a name but they are the last of their race as their planet is desolate. All signs point to them being the last of their species making their plight all the more sad. For years all they’ve known is the terror of the clown and I enjoyed their interactions with one another. The biggest issue I have is also tied to them too. This species wasn’t even given a name.

Harry Kim – Harry Kim is active in this episode and is hostile to the clown. He gets punished for it having to relive his fear of being old and sick but he forever fights on. He is willing to die to defeat the clown and we get see just how brave the ensign is as he is the one who has to stay with the Clown when Torres is left out. I enjoyed learning about his past as it was visiting the sick with his mom as a child that made him fearful of it in the first place.

The Doctor – Robert Picardo is masterful in this episode. As a hologram the Clown can’t read his mind and this is used to a fantastic degree. The Doctor shuts down the Clown’s to control the situation and at one point serves as a distraction when Janeway tries to shut down the system. It doesn’t work but he continues to be the negotiator and remains the only being unphased by the Clown and his antics.

Captain Janeway – Captain Janeway is the one who outsmarts the Clown in the end as she comes up with the plan to connect her brain to the A.I. but send in a hologram in her place. It is here that it is revealed she has no fear and that her philosophy as relates to fear is revealed. She tells him he wanted to be defeated as in the end fear is there to be stopped and go away. It was well done and I love how she knows the embodiment of fear is afraid to die as the episode goes back. Kate Mulgrew gives such a fantastic heir of cold confidence, that works really well against the Clown.

The Clown – Michael McKean is brilliant as the A.I. created by the minds in stasis connected to the computer. He is fun, threatening and creepy. Creepy Clowns are popular in horror and his Clown is a great example of why this works. He has a guillotine he uses to execute people and by the time the crew discovers the survivors he had already killed 2 of 5 aliens who had died from fright. His final defeat is rewarding too as he trades the hostages for a chance to gain control over Captain Janeway. It is really well handled and how he negotiates for his survival makes him a great threat.

This is an episode that I’d highly recommend to any “Voyager” fan. The use of tension, horror and the strange work wonders here and McKean’s performance is compelling enough that he can play off any character from the crew. The only con I can really see against it is the fact that the aliens don’t have a name. If they’d been fleshed out a bit more we’d have a better idea of how the tech. came around in the first place, which in turn could give more elements to the Clown. Regardless, this is an episode I highly recommend.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10 A favorite “Voyager” episode.

Star Trek: Voyager – Season 1, Episode 8 – “Ex Post Facto” – The Time “Voyager” Went Noir

Ex Post Facto (episode) | Memory Alpha | Fandom

     “Ex Post Facto” is early “Voyager” and trying to tell a Noir style mystery. Overall it works, though the greatest things against it is the dialogue. At times it felt like the characters were speaking as Noir archetypes, rather than characters which kept me from rating it higher. Tuvok is the most compelling character in the story and I was grateful to see him get some development. This was an episode I overall enjoyed and I’ll get into why below.

The teleplay was by Evan Carlos Somers and Michael Piller and was directed by LeVar Burton.

Tom Paris is convicted of murder, leading to Voyager and Tuvok investigating into events further.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Mystery Presentation – The mystery is presented in interviews and a black and white memory file of the victim. This is beautifully done and LeVar Burton does a great job capturing the stakes and mystery of each scene, as well as capturing the tension between characters.

The Politics and Species – The politics of this episode are fascinating. You have the Banae and Numiri who are at war and once shared a world. Throughout the episode the Numiri are neutral to hostile and we soon see that there are some Banae working with them. I wish the conflict had been explored further, but the premise of the conflict as well as the designs were very well. The Banae look more human with feathers on their head while the Numiri are entirely reptilian. I’m glad they didn’t go cheap for the character designs on these two.

The Doctor’s Individuality – Kes is one of the first people to help the Doctor realize he is more than his programming. It is a really well done scene as she questions why he discounts what he cares about and if he’d ever choose a name. I loved their relationship in this as it had the Doctor as a mentor but also learning from the only person who could see his humanity.

Chakotay and the Maquis – Chakotay asks Janeway to do a Maquis tactic to neutralize the enemy Numiri forces and we see him work with Torres to pull it off. It is beautifully done and I wish we’d seen more of it. This is early in the show, so they are still showing the Maquis perspective on this voyage home. It was great seeing his origin as a Maquis put to use and him working with one of his crewmen (Torres) to pulls it off.

Janeway – Janeway is both respectful of the conflict she is in the middle of and not taking a side while doing everything she can get Paris back. I really liked her appreciation here and hated how when she came to Neelix for advice he acted like an ass. This is an episode that shows why she leads and I like how she calls out Chakotay’s tactic that is good they never met in battle. Even if she was bluffing it was a nice bit of dialogue.

Tuvok – Tuvok is the heart of the episode. It is his quest for the truth that helps it come to light. He mind melds with Paris and notices the height difference between he and the woman he was cheating on her husband with and also the data in the memory. It is from this he extrapolates someone is trying to pass information onto the Numiri due to them attacking everytime Paris is leaving or coming to Voyager. We learn he’s been married for years in this episode too and he accepts Tom Paris’s friendship which was a touching way to end the episode.

The Cons:

The Dialogue – The dialogue is really on the nose. Anytime characters are discussing the murder they sound like jaded cynics, which didn’t fit. When Harry Kim was talking like someone twice his age, I didn’t believe it. The best dialogue is when it is naturally occurring dialogue like Chakotay and his plan and any scenes with Tuvok.

The Motivation of the Villains – The villains were trying to sell weapon technology to a species they were at war with. Why? I didn’t see what they were getting out of the situation. The performances were fine but they needed a more fleshed out motivation. Lidell is only using Paris as she is already with a Doctor who doesn’t even have a name in the episode. They needed more motivation. The performances were good but they needed a deeper motivation.

Neelix – Neelix jokes around way too much for the crew trying to save Paris. He comes off as uncaring and not really knowing all that much about either people in the conflict. He was the only crewmember this episode could have done without and been better for it.

This is a solidly enjoyable episode. LeVar Burton clearly knew what he was going for in telling the murder mystery Noir and he captures this beautifully. The only issues were the dialogue at times and the motivation of the villains. We never learn why they were trying to get weapons to the Numiri and why they’d betray their own people. Besides this, we get to see so many of the crew shine and this never stops being an episode with stakes.

Final Score: 7.7 / 10

Star Trek: Voyager – Season 5, Episode 15 and 16 – “Dark Frontier, Part 1 and 2” – The Temptation of the Borg

   “Dark Frontier, Part 1 and 2” is one of the best stories to come out of “Voyager.” This is a story that explores Janeway, Seven of Nine, the Borg and gives us consequences of Voyager and their need to get home. I’m reviewing “Part 1 and 2” as a single episode since Netflix had it as one single watch and even Memory Alpha lists both episodes together rather than as a “Part 1” and “Part 2.” I think this worked for the narrative and really strengthens the story. This is easily one of the best episodes in “Voyager” and is one of my favorites.

The episodes were directed by Cliff Bole and Terry Windell and written by Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky.

When Janeway discovers an injured Borg Sphere she sees an opportunity to get them home faster with the Sphere’s transwarp coil. Things are not as they seem as when she puts her plan in motion Seven begins to hear the voices of the Collective as she investigates her parent’s research into the Borg.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Threat of the Borg – The Borg feel like a constant threat in this story. We see this first in how the crew who are supposed to hijack the transwarp coil from the Sphere keep failing. It is this failure of the Borg adapting too quickly that really raise the stakes and lead to Seven delving into the research into the Borg that her parents did into the Borg. These flashbacks presented with her parents also establish this threat as it is in them remaining off sensors that keep the Borg from assimilating them for a long time. We also see the threat in how Seven willingly gives herself up to the Borg in order to protect the crew and during her time on the Cube, an assimilation of a species. This story is really what I wish “First Contact” could have been. There are stakes in the Borg tempting Seven to come back and the stakes remain focused and high.

Janeway’s Plan – Janeway’s plan makes sense. Her ultimate goal is to get her crew home and a transwarp coil would cut down there time in Borg Space and in the Delta Quadrant immensely. This being a high stakes heist kept me engaged and I could see why Janeway came up with the plan in the first place. It was risky, but feasible and the pros would outweigh the cons.

The Temptation of Seven of Nine – Temptation has spent more of her life in the Borg Collective. We see this in that she was assimilated as a child and her parents were assimilated too…so in that way their voices were still always with her. This twisted connection is what the Queen uses to tempt Seven back to them and from here she offers Seven more of what she’s always strived for on Voyager, to be more and to grow. The Queen is lets her keep her free will but connects her to the Collective as she attempts to re-indoctrinate her and train her….it is never said outright, but I think to become a future Queen.

The Borg Queen – The Borg Queen feels like a threat in this. This is the first time watching her where she has felt like one. This is done through us seeing the crew fail in their holographic runs to take the transwarp coil, the fact that the Queen knows about their plan and her ability to use Seven’s empathy against her. I wish we could have seen her do this with Picard and Data in “First Contact.” She is Seven’s evil mentor in this, opposite of Janeway and she makes a good argument for the Borg by demonstrating their power and the Collective knowledge that they are. For this reason I can see why she has so many scenes with Seven. If only “Voyager” could have kept her this smart and cunning after this. I’m not a fan of the Queen and like the Borg as Collective Mind that is otherworldy and “We,” but I salute this episode for making the Queen compelling and a threat.

Captain Janeway – Captain Janeway is both mentor and mother figure for Seven in this. In this we see her deal with the conflict of the need to protect the crew as a whole versus her overall connection to any single one member…like Seven. In the end she of course chooses Seven as it was her decision to go forward with plan and let Seven be a part of it that lead to Seven going back to the Borg in the first place. I thought this was handled well and Janeway never felt overpowered or smarter than everyone else. She was flawed and human while also being courageous and cunning. This is a great Janeway episode.

Seven of Nine – Seven’s arc is what drives the story as we see her face the temptation of the world of the Collective she knew before versus her desire for freedom and individuality she’s been exploring on Voyager. Jeri Ryan is fantastic as we see her tackle her inner conflict as well as her complicated relationship to her parents, who were assimilated like her and where the reason she was assimilated because of how obsessed and reckless they were in relationship to the Borg. It is because of them most of her life was spent in the Collective and it is this temptation that the Queen uses to bring Seven back to them. From here we see the Queen seeking to mentor as Janeway did, except it is mentoring in how to become a Queen. It is the immoral act of assimilation and destroying species that lead to them clashing and why Seven returns back to the crew when they come to rescue her. I loved this arc. Seven and The Doctor are my favorite characters on “Voyager” and this story is a big reason why.

Okay:

The Ensemble Cast – The rest of the cast has things to do for Janeway’s heist and the later rescue of Seven, but we don’t really learn anything new about them. I’m not putting it as a con though as I appreciated everyone was given something to do over the course of this story. If some minor characters had been explored a bit more, whether pushing against Janeway’s plan or providing an alternative plan it would have been a perfect episode.

This is “Voyager” at it’s best. We have an amazing threat in the Borg, Seven and Janeway get developed and the stakes remain high through the entire 2 episodes. The only thing it needed was a little more exploration of some of the ensemble cast and it would have been the perfect 2 parter. It is a shame the Borg Queen will never feel this threatening or smart after this, as this is the only episode that I really saw the potential of what that character brought to the Borg Collective. If you are a “Voyager” or “Star Trek” fan this story is well worth your time.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10 A near perfect “Voyager” story.

 

Star Trek: Voyager – Season 6, Episode 16 – “Collective” – Finding Connection Beyond the Borg

Image result for Star trek voyager collective icheb

   “Collective” is a solidly good episode. The tension is real, we get some wonderful character development of the Voyager crew and the Borg we meet. Before I get into story details, if you are a fan of “Voyager” you should check this episode out. It brought back memories for me watching it as it was in Middle School I’d catch episodes on UPN when I got home from school. This is later in the show and is a great example of how “Voyager” could still put out quality episodes, even as they were winding down.

The episode was directed by Allison Liddi with teleplay by Michael Taylor and story by Andrew Shepard Price and Mark Gaberman.

The story follows Voyager as they seek to rescue Harry, Chakotay, Tom and Neelix when a Borg Cube run by assimilated children captures them.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Captain Janeway – This is a good Captain Janeway episode. In this we see that she cares about the Borg children but also is doing all she can to save her captured crewmembers. She’s stern and powerful and works masterfully when she confronts the First, the leader of the Borg children. Her point freaks him out so much that he refuses to speak to her again. This episode shows why she was Captain of Voyager.

Harry Kim – Harry Kim is the only member of the crew who the Borg children haven’t captured initially. Thanks to Janeway he puts a plan in motion to shut down the Cube so that his crewmembers can be rescued. Sadly he is captured and experimented on by the Borg. I enjoyed seeing him take charge though and wish he’d gotten a win. Harry usually always has bad stuff happen to him, which is a shame as there is so much potential in the character.

The Drones – The Drones are fascinating as what drives them is the desire to be back with the Collective. It is only Seven showing them there is another away and Second (Icheb) taking charge that shows them that they can have another life free, on Voyager. The one thing I’ll say against them is I wish First had been explored more. He’s threatened by anyone who questions him but we don’t know his backstory, just that he wants to rejoin the Collective more than anything. The drama between him, Voyager and the other drones is compelling though.

Icheb and Seven – The strongest part of this story is the relationship between Icheb and Seven. Seven repairs him, as the First says he is not fit to lead because of how his tech. is acting up. This leads to trust between them and we see him come to realize his individuality and potential future in what Seven shares. She is his mentor and friend in the episode and I like that we’d see more of this relationship in future episodes. She was the first to show him a life outside of the Collective.

Connection Beyond the Borg – The main fear of the drones is that they will be alone if they do not rejoin the Collective. It is that leads to the botched assimilations they were trying on captured aliens and why they tried to bargain with the hostages for Voyager technology to fix the Cube. Seven is the one who shows them that there are other ways to make connections and that they shouldn’t care about the Collective as it abandoned them. Over time this reality seeks in and the surviving Borg children join the Voyager crew after First fails in keeping control.

The Cons:

Neelix – Neelix was on the Delta Flyer and I don’t see any reason why he should have been. He’s the cook and they are far beyond his area of space so him even selling himself as a diplomat feel cheap. He’s not as annoying as he can often be in this episode but he is still a con.

I really liked this episode. We get to learn more about the Borg, Seven has some great character development, we are introduced to Icheb and Janeway is a great captain in this episode. This episode sets up major stories in the last of the season as Icheb will play a bigger role and we will learn more about how he got assimilated in the first place. Icheb and Seven is one of the more intriguing relationships on “Voyager” as they are both former drones and Seven comes to be an awesome adoptive mother as she embraces the best aspects of the Borg and humanity.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

Star Trek: Voyager Pilot – Caretaker Part 1 and 2 – Lost in Space

Caretaker part 1 and 2

The fourth week of the Star Trek Pilot Series brings us to “Star Trek: Voyager,” a series that had an interesting premise that it failed to realize. The premise is that a Starfleet vessel and Maquis (Ex-Federation citizens fighting against the Cardassians) having to work together in a new area of the galaxy (the Delta Quadrant) and far away from home. The name Caretaker comes from the entity who pulls them to the Delta Quadrant.

Here is the assessment of the two part pilot:

Pros: Tom Paris – Is an interesting character, he is an ex-convict, former Maquis.

The Doctor – Is funny and fantastic. You see him rising up to the challenge of being the only medical personnel on the vessel too.

Okay: The story – the idea of a powerful entity pulling a federation and Maquis vessel to an unexplored Quadrant is pretty cool. How they execute this is okay…A Maquis (Torres) and Federation (Hary Kim) officer are taken by the Ocampa to help the Caretaker find a mate so there will be someone to look over the Ocampa. They escape and the Caretaker dies telling them the Kazon must not get the array. You’ll find my thoughts on the Kazon further down…but no third option is explored. There is no explanation why in this instance the Federation should get involved in these politics or for the Maquis to care at all. It is contrived but not bad…making the story of the episode okay…

Captain Janeway – We never see her have to fully face the consequences of leaving them in the Delta Quadrant…she is right because she is the captain. This hurt a potentially awesome character. Not to mention her being a scientist remains unexplored in this episode in every sense.

Chakotay – Same issue as Janeway. He just forgets he’s a Maquis and becomes a Starfleet Officer, we see none of the survivalist mentality of a rebel group leader…and we never see him confront Janeway about her choice. Okay, but unrealized potential.

Torres – The Half-Klingon crew member is briefly explored in that her anger comes from her Klingon half and who she is conflicted over that. But you never see why she joined the Maquis, we don’t get her motivations at all. Though that goes for the majority of the characters too.

Kes – The Ocampa who left her people. What an awesome idea…sadly she is with Neelix which I don’t understand. This guy exploited his allies and nearly got Kes killed by turning the Voyager crew into hostages of the Kazon. He is more dangerous than the Kazon cause he thinks he knows what he is doing.

The Caretaker – An interesting idea that is never fully realized. An advanced species taking care of a species they hurt is a cool idea…but we never know it fully. He worse than Q at “Encounter at Farpoint,” as far as how see him showing us those motivations.

Ocampa – Interesting species that isn’t fully realized. I don’t think the writers knew what to do with them.

The Special Effects – Are decent but not great. There are some great moments though like the space battles.

Cons: Neelix – He  exploits the crew, lies to them and is annoying. I don’t know why he was added to this series.

Kazon – Are weaker versions of Klingons…they have a unique look, but were never threatening in the episode.

Execution of Premise – For two very different ideologies there is no conflict (Maquis vs Federation)…the Maquis just join Voyager…there is no tension and Chakotay submits to Janeway really fast. After seeing Eddington and Sisko in DS9 this just feels false.

In High School I enjoyed watching Voyager when it was on…but that as mostly the later seasons. When I went back to earlier seasons I couldn’t get through them. Like Early TNG trying to be TOS, much of Voyager was trying to be TNG and this hurt the almost Battlestar Galacticaesquepremise. This is would stay true through the series. Magic reset buttons and playing it safe…there was hardly any conflict, hard choices and survivalism…it was just exploration and holodecks when it could have been so much more. It was average Star Trek and rarely elevated it…just like It’s pilot.

5 / 10, an average Star Trek episode, and not the worst of the Pilot Series…It isn’t bad, it just doesn’t confront us with any dilemmas or capture the essence of Star Trek anyway beyond travel and being stuck somewhere new.