Star Trek: Voyager – The 2016 Rewatch

I watched the first episode of Star Trek: Voyager in my Junior Cert year in the function room of a pub with the local Star Trek fan club in early 1995. It was recorded in the US on a NTSC video tape, mailed over to the club runners in Limerick, copied and sent to local clubs around the country and then played on a compatible VCRs.

It was a different era – but, on reflection, a much more sociable one. These episodes, straight from the US, were enjoyed in groups with a few drinks. The new upcoming series will must likely be watched instead in darkened rooms, alone and as downloaded via BitTorrent (every bit as (il)legal as our Voyager viewing).

Voyager came around at a fairly hectic time for me. Started in my Junior Cert year, season 3 hitting my Leaving Cert year and the remaining seasons clashing with a fairly hectic college social life. I don’t think I ever missed an episode but it was certainly a non-linear erratic viewing. It left me with an overall poor impression of the show. So much so that I’ve never rewatched the series in order and in a short space of time until just these last two months. Almost twenty years later.

And that’s a pity. On rewatching, it was a great show. It also bodes well for what Bryan Fuller will do with the new series, Star Trek: Discovery. 

So, some early, unedited and initial reflections on the rewatch:

  • Janeway was a great captain. Played by a great actor, Kate Mulgrew, who was able to perfectly balance strength and compassion. Sisko will always win it for me but, bloody hell, Janeway is battling for number two pretty strongly right now in my head. I haven’t watched TNG in a while which may help, but, still, credit where credit is due here.
  • Why the fuck was the ship never at warp? This is a crew trying to get home. But every opening shot has them out of warp before diverting to check out whatever this weeks interest was. Sure, it was a financial decision as green screen f/x are expensive. But surely you can re-use the exterior of the ship at warp to set the scene ad infinitum and then don’t put the characters at a window! This broke my heart in nearly every episode. 
  • Character mental breakdowns: there were a few times were characters were effectively given mental breakdowns for the purposes of a story. This happens too often in Star Trek I think. For example Tom Paris in Thirty Days. The biggest culprit of all was Janeway in Equinox. Yeah, I get she’s pissed off at another Star Fleet captain going over the edge (massively). But turning her into an crazed Ahab (with his obsessive quest to catch the whale) was not credible. Nor was nearly-torturing a crewman and confining Chakotay to quarters believable. It just didn’t work for me.
  • The Doctor was brilliant. This was entirely down to the fantastic acting of Robert Picardo. I felt the writers discovered this themselves as we went through the first two seasons. The doctor episodes were always a joy.
  • The Year of Hell: I imagine some hoped for seven years of this. I did too before my rewatch. It was always my biggest criticism. This two-parter is one of the best episodes of the series. I’m not sure how much influence Ron Moore had on this (he’s not credited as a writer). But he went onto create the re-imaging Battlestar Galactica which – when I watched it – felt like what Voyager could have been.
  • The Borg. In the beginning it felt a bit lazy to bring them in. I don’t recall if it had been established in TNG is they were from the Delta Quadrant or not. If it had, it wasn’t lazy. But, if not, then vice-versa. In the end the Borg added to Voyager (none the least with Seven of Nine) but also the Borg Queen / Janeway playoffs.
  • The finale: ah, sigh. I just found the use of time travel a bit lazy here too. The Admiral/Captain playoffs were great as were many other elements. But, I don’t know, it would have been nice to solve it themselves without another time travel episode. And, speaking of mental breakdowns, I’m still not convinced Janeway’s character would have broken the temporal prime directive in the first place.
  • Q. Should never have made an appearance in Voyager as every time every viewer was just screaming “send them home!”.
  • Lastly, like the other series’: too much reliance on the holodeck for story telling. You’re in space for crying out loud! Plenty of stories out there.

This is a post in the series Daily January 2016 – generally rushed and unedited.

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