Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Inexplicable TV Review – Voyager’s answer to everything? A time machine did it!

Warning: Spoilers follow for the last few seasons and ending of Star Trek: Voyager.

Ultimately, I liked my trip through the seven seasons and 172 episodes (!) of Star Trek: Voyager, although things do start to get awfffulllyyy creaky toward the end because of a strong emphasis on time travel as a quick fix. I couldn’t tell if the show simply got cancelled abruptly, and they needed to wrap things up with a two-part episode, or if the writing simply faltered a bit in the final season.

On TV Tropes, there is a concept called A Wizard Did It, which originates from The Simpsons as all great concepts do. On Voyager, this could be modified into A Time Machine Did It, as this is the main plot rescue device for too many episodes in the last couple of seasons, including the two-part series finale.

Because the plot device is used so much, it unfortunately hurts the show – it makes Voyager being stranded in the Delta Quadrant feel more like an artificial plot contrivance. The show finally ends with Janeway from 26 years in the future using a time machine to travel back, to help the crew through a Borg transwarp hub wormhole thing.  

It’s frustrating because it’s a plot they could have done without relying on time travel yet again. Just have the crew stumble across that big ole Borg ship, and realize they can use it to travel back to Earth. Future Janeway makes a heroic sacrifice to allow the crew to achieve the trip, but they could have figured out a way around it, or have one of Voyager’s actual crewmembers do it. Because we know it’s Future Janeway, who will be “killed” anyway with a timeline change, her sacrifice means less.

The time traveling is so extensive in the final two seasons that we’re exposed to actual things like the Temporal Prime Directive, and a squad of time traveling Starfleet officers who don’t allow deviation from the timeline. The latter is especially confusing, as is the Future Janeway’s ability to somewhat easily steal a time travel device. It’s implied that time traveling is somewhat regular in the future of the show, and as a viewer, it just seemed odd to me that something REALLY catastrophic hadn’t happened as a result.

Outside of the emphasis on time travel, the biggest flaw with the final six episodes or so is a hasty romance plot between Seven of Nine and Chakotay. There isn’t a ton of setup for it, and Future Janeway reveals that the two get married. Since the previous seasons mostly teased at Chakotay-Janeway and Doctor-Seven of Nine flings, it feels weird that they pivot strongly away from both.

Anyway, some other random odds and ends:

- My Voyager Character Power Rankings: The Doctor, Seven, Naomi Wildman, gap, Janeway, Tuvok, Torres, Paris, Harry Kim, gap, Chakotay, gap, Neelix, huge gap, Troi and Reginald Barclay. While Seven has more “high” moments than The Doctor, I have to give him a smidge more credit for being the most compelling character of the course of the entire series.

- Naomi Wildman just kills it pretty much every scene she’s in. She adds good levity to the show, and helps humanize Seven of Nine in a great way, whereas much of the other “humor” of Voyager falls flat. I usually find the Cute Kid characters insufferable, but she’s a rare exception to the rule. She’s so great that her mother, Samantha Wildman, basically gets demoted to extra.

- Neelix gets offloaded a couple episodes before the finale, which I was fine with. I never really warmed up to his character, although thankfully, his more comedic aspects are downplayed once Kes gets jettisoned off the ship. He was more interesting once he was portrayed as a competent ambassador for the ship.

- Reginald Barclay guest “stars” in a couple episodes, as a Starfleet officer obsessively trying to make contact with Voyager. He was in Next Generation and basically serves as a stand-in for sci-fi crazed fans, and he’s highly annoying.

The pandering feels worse because he’s accompanied briefly in most episodes by Deanna Troi. You can really see the seams on these episodes. “Well, we can only get Marina Sirtis to agree to a couple scenes, but the guy who plays Barclay, he just wants to know when he’ll get his check.”

- I’m now done with Voyager, and I’m currently making my way through Next Generation. I had thought I had seen all of the episodes, but Netflix tells me that I actually, bizarrely watched the first two seasons and the last season, leaving a ton of the middle episodes untouched. Whoops.

From there, my buddy and Trek superfan Bob recommended that I go in the order of Deep Space Nine, the old Star Trek movies, Enterprise, then the new Star Trek movies. I’m also still catching up on Gilmore Girls with Karen, and I need to watch Luke Cage at some point too, but there is something oddly easy about watching Trek vs. “new” content. They had a sort of relaxed cadence that makes them perfect for background watching, as I’m writing or doing other things.

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