Friday, September 9, 2016

Inexplicable TV Review – Star Trek: Voyager S4 (a.k.a. The Seven of Nine season)

The DVD cover for S4, which is cool retro.

Warning: Spoilers follow for the second, third and fourth season of Star Trek: Voyager, and a tiny bit of season five. Also, Steve is still making his way through the show, so he’d appreciate it if you kept spoilers to a minimum.

To get something procedural out of the way – The second and third seasons of Voyager are kind of boring, probably because I’ve assimilated to modern television. And hey, get it? I’ve assimilated – ha ha ha! But, the episodic nature of an older show like Voyager really shows its seams in contrast to the more modern narratives. It’s hard to feel like the stakes are high when you’re watching on Netflix and see that you have another 20 episodes to go – in a season, never mind the show’s actual run.

As a result, the second and third seasons kind of plod along. The show struggles to find a decent villain alien, and we get some decent Crew Bonding moments here and there. It all feels a bit aimless, like Voyager’s journey through the Delta Quadrant.

Finding a non-lurid photo of Jeri Ryan is tough.

However, things almost immediately pick up in the fourth season with the introduction of the Borg, Seven of Nine and Species 8472. While the Borg got a bit too overused in various Star Trek media after their introduction in The Next Generation, they’re still pretty bad ass in Voyager… Until you find out about Species 8472, which are to biological evolution as the Borg are to technology-based evolution. They provide a decent balancing power to the Borg.

Pretty much every episode of season four is devoted to Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) adjusting to life aboard Voyager, excluding a small story arc about Kes. Seven was assimilated into the Borg collective as a little baby girl, and she’s severed from it by the Voyager crew. There is the predictable adjustment curve, with the dry acting of Ryan providing some appropriate laughs and drama, depending on the situation. She’s not a Starfleet officer, and goes against their directive at times, and tends to make things quite a bit more interesting.

Her development seemingly comes at the expense of Kes, who vanishes from the show in the second episode of the fourth season. According to the Interwebs, actress Jennifer Lien didn’t have her contract renewed, so that they could bring on Ryan. I probably would have told Neelix to hit the bricks before Kes, but, it kind of works for the show, since Kes was only supposed to have a lifespan of a couple years. She literally vanishes, as she turns into some sort of corporeal being that helps Voyager get out of Borg space. (Real-life has not gone so well for Lien, by the way.)

Other items for discussion:

- Janeway’s hair radically changes style from episode to episode. I’m not sure why, since this isn’t a thing with any of the other male or female cast members. Janeway just seemingly has more flare than those others captains.

- The unquestionably worst episode of the fourth season is the one where Seven of Nine kind of, sort of gets raped, but not by the innocent guy who dies from her accusations. It’s just nihilistic, depressing dreck. Trekkie Feminist has a good write-up on it here. It was co-written by Bryan Fuller of NBC’s Hannibal, but at least according to the Star Trek Wiki, he considers it the weakest of the episodes he’s written.

- Thanks to Seven, Voyager manages to make contact with Earth at one point in season four, which was good stuff. So far, that small episode run is the only contact they have with Earth, which oddly helps to preserve the isolationist feel of the show. While they’ve made usage of some space jumps and Plot Loopholes here and there to get closer to the Alpha Quadrant, the show mostly plays it straight with Voyager being stranded deep in the Delta Quadrant.

- One exception to the previous note: Time travel. At one point, it looks like Voyager goes through a disaster that kills everyone, at least according to the cold open. However, things are undone by… time travel. Or at least, being able to send messages back in time. Ugh. I’m not sure why that episode bugged me so much. Maybe because the time traveling is presented somewhat casually? In past Trek mediums, time traveling is seen as a Big Effing Deal, and produces from of the best movies and episodes. On Voyager, not so much.

- Some of the better episodes: “In The Flesh,” when Voyager manages to make peace with Species 8472. “The Raven,” which gets into Seven’s human origins and backstory. And “Living Witness,” according to the Internets, is considered the best Voyager episode, and I’d concur. You can watch it independent of almost all of the other ones.

- Voyager main cast character power rankings: Seven, The Doctor, gap, Tuvok, gap, Paris, Torres, gap, Janeway, gap, Harry Kim, Chakotay, huge gap, Neelix. In that listing, Janeway is right on the border of good/bad.

Anyway! According to Wikipedia, I have about 70 episodes left to go. I’m usually burning through about two to four when I’m home, so it’ll probably be another month before I’m through them all.

The picture of Seven and Janeway is from here.

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