Reviews: Star Trek Voyager

Incompetence, Inc.: The Series. But not as bad as ENT!

Where to begin? The whole series was screwed from the get-go by bad writing; bar Chakotay, the cast was actually really good, as shown whenever they got a half-decent script (i.e. "Workforce"), the special effects after season 3 were pretty damn good, and the music was decent, but the writing was done by a couple of drunken monkeys on a typewriter. Torres has one personality trait (rage) and literally can't identify shit with a tricorder. Chakotay is a despicable ethnic stereotype. Janeway's personality depends entirely on the writer, and she regularly commits crimes ranging from murder to high treason and gets away with it. Tom Paris is omnicompetent, being an ace pilot commando field medic history buff engineer programming genius Memetic Sex God. Harry Kim has no personality at all, and has two kinds of plots: Those shaming him for having any form of heterosexual inclination, and those that involve him being transparently in love with Tom Paris. Neelix is a toxic thing that should've been killed the moment he stepped on screen, combining utter incompetence in all things with an annoying attitude, emotional abuse of his girlfriend, and buckets of wasted potential. Kes is like every Mary Sue feature rolled into one, but is also the sole competent person on the ship, so of course she is kicked off the show and comes back insane. Seven of Nine hogs the screen time and her outfit is insultingly sexploitative (I watch Trek for the stories and characters, not weak attempts at titillation). Tuvok is relatively competent, unless Kenneth Biller is writing him, so of course he is roundly ignored. The minor characters are waaaay underused, probably because they actually feel like people rather than cardboard cut-outs.

Voyager destroyed the credibility of the Borg, the TNG era's greatest threat. Voyager called its Captain a hero for betraying the Federation and using flesh-melting weapons on sapient life-forms. Voyager subjected me to Neelix for seven straight seasons. When Ron Moore showed up after DS 9 wrapped, he left soon after because Berman and Braga drove him off the show with their incompetence. Voyager regularly contradicted canon, including its own, and had no consistent continuity.

However, I will give Voyager this: It had the EMH, and the EMH was perfect. Picardo played him masterfully.

Fantastic for what it is

Reviewers love to rip "Voyager" to shreds, but the fact remains that it has plenty of fans all around the world. The abundance of fan art, fan-ficiton, Trekkies who attend and record "Voyager" panels at conventions, and twenty-something-year-olds who look back fondly on the show as an integral part of their childhood, is proof of that.

If one judges "Voyager" for what it is—an episodic sci-fi show, in the vein of "the Original Series" and "Next Generation"—it's a fantastic show. Most episodes are able to stand on their own, while also working into a longer, ongoing story. You can pick an episode from any season to watch, if you wish; but if you watch the whole thing in order, you can also appreciate how the characters evolve and the situation changes over time. Each season offers a balance of episode types, from "epic" ensemble-cast adventures, to single-character focused stories, to humorous episodes.

"Voyager's" characters are it's strongest point. Though a few characters were sadly neglected all too often (Chakotay, Kim, all of the recurring characters...), those that do get focus develop wonderfully. The cast in general is far more flawed and complex than the elite, best-of-the-best crew we got on "Next Generation."

The show's genuine flaws come in the form of rushed writing, and some wooden acting. Chakotay, Kim and Paris all fluctuate in their acting abilities, ranging from lively powerful performances, to sounding like they're possessed by Nicholas Cadge. (Though, in retrospect, it's entirely possible that the show's three main hotties weren't hired for their acting talent.) Some of the biggest plot-twists of the show also happen all to suddenly (including cast changes, and the events of the series finale).

Verdict: If you like "Star Trek" for the science-ficiton based plots, "Voyager" will no doubt feel repetitive and trite. But if you watch a show for the characters, I highly recommend it. If you're looking for a new arc-based show to kill entire weekends with, "Voyager's" probably not the right show; if you want a show where you can pull out a good or great episode to watch now and then, "Voyager" is a good choice.

Still lazy after all these years

Speaking as an offhand fan of Trek (I have only seen Deep Space Nine in its entirety, and avoid TOS the same way I avoid MASH — too much hype). And I think VOY is the litmus test of whether you're a real Trekkie. Real fans can overlook mild annoyances, others move on.

The series premise was a smart move on paper. If done right, the franchise could have continued evolving with each new iteration. I even enjoyed the pilot, "Caretaker". The problem lay squarely with the writers, who wrote a check they couldn't cash. They even have children and a cutesy mascot onboard the ship. It's just the same old formula, and it got so tiresome that you can smell the resentment coming off the screen. The writers went through the motions, openly scornful of this hackneyed product.

The second episode of the series has Janeway and Paris on an alien planet which looks like Bel Air, surrounded by rubber foreheads (Actually, they didn't even bother with foreheads this episode) who all wear the same ugly, Texaco gas attendant outfits. Well, imagine a whole show like that. It's creaky as all hell. The show had its moments with the Vidians, Torres, and The Doctor (Tuvok never grew on me — he was a proto-T'Pol, all humorless boredom and furrowed brow). But nobody really stands out in my memory except Jeri Ryan, who busted her purple-clad behind to elevate the material.