“Star Trek: Voyager” Season 4: The Skip It/Watch It Guide
She! Cannot! Be! Stopped! Once again, Whitney Bishop is venturing into dark terrain — albeit dark terrain featuring a sexy Borg lady. Time now for Season 4 of “Voyager”! –Liz
I have a terrible confession to make. I didn’t like Seven of Nine.
She first appeared on the show when I was sixteen years old, and I felt she was about the worst thing Voyager had going for it. One of the reasons was, I will admit now, semi-petty: she was pretty, but she wasn’t just pretty, she was Space Magic Barbie, who had been dressed not only in a tight suit, but in a tight suit specifically made to corset her as prominently possible — and made absolutely no practical sense, to boot. Like, I understand how a plain bodysuit is a reasonably unfrivolous outfit, but really if they’d rescued a boy Borg instead, do you think they would’ve put him in a silver suit so tight you could see his balls?
And there’s nothing in the universe practical about those heels. Her core design was just so obviously someone’s masturbatory fantasy put on display to attract straight male viewers that I was uncomfortable as a young person, and I’m still more than a little uncomfortable now. (See also: Enterprise‘s Sex Vulcan — and boy, is that a show I’m not doing a Skip It/Watch It for. Or wait, here we go: just skip it.)
The second reason had less to do with her, and more that her presence turned everyone around her into the pro-humanity cheerleading squad. No lie, I’m a big enough nerd that I one wrote a college paper about how Star Trek‘s ‘humanity is the best!’ attitude really sticks in my craw. (Is it any wonder DS9 and I are BFFs?)
Every ‘reclaim your humanness!’ bit I saw back then seemed like it never quite gave Seven’s resistance a full shake, nor did anyone really concede that, you know, she’s making a really good point. She gives it up pretty quickly, too, to the point where later ‘but will she rejoin the Borg???’ threats are pretty toothless.
None of that goes on Jeri Ryan, though. She kills it. She is straight-up the best actor in the cast and she brings out the best in pretty much everyone she works with, especially Kate Mulgrew. And after this rewatch, I will freely admit that my earlier dislike was wrong and revise my opinion: Seven is not the worst thing to happen to Voyager; she just happens to be the convergence point of several unflattering meta ideas held by the creative minds that ran the show. She herself is great.
1. “Scorpion, Part II”: Watch it. Well, duh, you want to know how the season three cliffhanger wound up, don’t you? …And okay, I know the production team disavows all similarities, but those things are just straight-up the Vorlon from Babylon 5.
2. “The Gift”: Watch it. When I started my rewatch, I seemed to remember that Kes left at the end of the first season. When the end of that came and went, I figured it must have been somewhere around the middle of season two. Nope, she makes it this far — but no further. She started out kind of bizarre and spacey, but I actually wound up liking her a lot. Still, when a character gets that god-modded, you’ve got to make them leave the party or it’s just not fair to everyone else.
3. “Day of Honor”: Skip it. Did you play that part of FFVIII? You know, the space catch? Then you’re good. [Whitney and I disagree on this one, largely because while she admits to being bored by B’Elanna’s relationship with Tom, while I really dug it (until it got super-boring much, much later in the show’s run). This is a huge episode for both characters, but largely B’Elanna, and I dug it. –Liz]
4. “Nemesis”: Skip it. The writer said he wanted these aliens to sound Chaucerian, but they actually just sound like they all swallowed the same thesaurus. Either that or they’re just a bunch of pretentious twelve-year-olds armed with PSAT vocabulary practice books. I choose to believe that the Universal Translator is just fucking with me. The acting is so bad I keep thinking it’s going to turn into a gay porno at any moment during the first half, and then in walks possibly the worst child actor I’ve ever seen in anything. I’m sorry, I can’t remotely take this seriously. The humor value of the unintentional homoeroticism is the only reason I can think of to watch. (‘I was told to drill you, Chakotay! But it’s you who’ve drilled me!’ BOM-CHICKA-BOW-WOW)
5. “Revulsion”: Skip it. The guest star does a fantastic job of freaking out all over the place, so I wish the A-story as a whole were interesting enough to make up for the gross B-story, but it’s not. For fuck’s sake, Harry, stop hitting on the recently ex-Borg; do you have any idea how Chester the Molester that makes you seem? Well, at least she shuts him down.
6. “The Raven”: Watch it. I think this wonderful comic by Vera Brosgol kind of sums up my disappointment in how the show never quite concedes that Seven of Nine has a point, but this episode is about as close as it gets to justifying how there’s still a scared little human girl in there. Bonus fact: this episode’s story was written by Bryan Fuller! You can sort of see how this is going to become the man who makes Hannibal.
7. “Scientific Method”: Watch it. Well, that was delightfully creepy. The best thing I can say about this one is that, gratuitous Florentine vistas notwithstanding, it would’ve made a fantastic DS9 episode.
8-9. “Year of Hell, Parts I and II”: Watch it. While I’m tired of temporal-mechanical episodes that get to go ‘and it was all a time dream!’ at the end, this one has some nice and harrowing parts. I mean, come on — scarred-up Janeway a la Renegade Shepard from Mass Effect? A+. [Yeah, I recall this one getting pretty damn fucked up. –Liz]
10. “Random Thoughts”: Skip it. I thought about turning this one off when Neelix and Paris had a conversation about romancing women at the beginning. Fortunately, it wasn’t all as bad as that. Unfortunately, it wasn’t much better. Unless you have a pressing need to see Tuvok get beaten up by some dudes, skip it.
11. “Concerning Flight”: Skip it. Janeway runs around an alien city, retrieving Voyager’s computer core with the help of Leonardo da Vinci (as played by John Rhys-Davies), and then they fly away from hostile aliens in his glider. If you just made a face, then you can understand why I recommend giving this one a pass.
12. “Mortal Coil”: Watch it. While death is a touchy subject, it’s really impressive to see an episode handle it a) without being saccharine, b) without broadcasting the moral in sixty-point font, and c) with a secular humanist message at the end. Honestly, the more I think about it — especially in light of season one’s ‘Emanations’ — the more I’m really, genuinely impressed by the show’s take on things, not just for its being an episode of Voyager, but for being a piece of American television, period. I even promise not to tell anyone you cried.
13. “Waking Moments”: Watch it. It’s hard to do a multiple-waking story well, but this one’s pretty good. Maybe not the most memorable, but certainly entertaining. (Also, so far as I can tell, this is about the time I stopped watching for good — not in protest, but because of real-life obligations and an unreliable VCR timer — ah, the ’90s. So everything past this is uncharted territory! Appropriately enough.)
14. “Message in a Bottle”: Watch it. Wouldn’t everything be better with a SASSY GAY EMH? Voyager’s attempts at humor often fall flat, but this one hits every note. Look at your life, Doctor; look at your choices.
15. “Hunters”: Watch it. Because of the Hirogen — even though they’re boring as dirt, you’ll still need to know who they are later. The letters-from-home storyline, however, is good.
16. “Prey”: Skip it. Hirogen: still boring.
17. “Retrospect”: Skip it. Show me on the Borg doll where the unreliable rape victim metaphor touched you.
18-19. “The Killing Game, Parts I and II”: Watch it. Okay, yeah, I definitely didn’t see this my first time around, but all I had to do was show my wife the screen paused on Seven of Nine all done up like a Weimar torch singer and she knew exactly what I was watching. My only sadness is that why Janeway and Neelix get made up for the Klingon scenario — they don’t go even part-human with the aliens in Vichy France. (Also, whose palm do I have to cross with silver to find the fanart of WWII AU Janeway making out with Seven? Asking for a
friend wife friend.)
20. “Vis à Vis”: Skip it. That alien wants to take Tom’s face … off. (Personally, I was hoping Tom would prove his identity by telling Chakotay he’s a dick.)
21. “The Omega Directive”: Skip it. Some interesting top-secret Starfleet stuff here, but it never comes back again, and while I like the question of ‘what would God be to a Borg?’, the process of discovering the answer is aimless and ultimately pointless. …Also, doesn’t a protocol that stops and locks down the ship to the captain alone upon sensing a certain particle seem foolish in light of how many times Janeway has, you know, died?
22. “Unforgettable”: Skip it. Alas, great premise brought low by clumsy execution. I love the idea of having two people in love who alternately can’t remember one another, but this pair just had zero chemistry.
23. “Living Witness”: Watch it. I love a good mirror universe episode. …Not that this is a good mirror universe episode, mind you, but it’s at least a mildly entertaining one.
24. “Demon”: Skip it. I wish they’d given this episode to someone who could actually write dialogue. The ‘banter’ is painful. The concept is really interesting, but between the stilted acting and the way the episode punks out on the core idea, you’ll probably be just as happy you never started it.
25. “One”: Watch it. This is a case of a great concept done well enough, but that could’ve been better if it had been braver. I would’ve preferred to see this go the full Moon by having the entire show be Seven of Nine, alone, making the audience as anxious as the solitude is making her.
26. “Hope and Fear”: Skip it. What? Skipping a season finale? Yeah, I wish I could recommend an episode where Ray Wise plays a foam-headed polylinguist alien, but I just … can’t. Another chance to get home quickly! Are we surprised that it fails? Also, no one’s talking about getting back to Federation space; everyone’s talking specifically about getting back to Earth itself. YES, LET’S ALL MISS EARTH IN DETAIL, EVEN THOUGH WE ARE NOT ALL FROM THERE AND MANY OF US HAVE NO REASONS TO GO BACK.
Which comes to 14 watch, 12 skip! …Well, it’s actually 12 watch, 12 skip if you count the two-parters as single episodes, but I’m good for giving as much credit as I can where credit is due here. You came out ahead, Season Four! Good for you! Let’s see if you can keep it up.
Whitney Bishop is editor-in-chief of Shousetsu Bang*Bang. She is also the best for doing this.
Posted on July 11, 2013, in No Spoilers, Other People Telling Liz Stuff, Skip It/Watch It Guide, TV and tagged Bryan Fuller, Captain Janeway, Jeri Ryan, Seven of Nine, star trek, star trek voyager, Voyager. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.
I’m really enjoying these skip it/watch it guides. I vaguely remember watching Voyager in my early teens and this brings back wonderful memories. Thanks, Whitney! Keep on keeping on.
Great list, thanks for doing this. After watching Discovery and ultimately hating it, I started a best-of rewatching of every other Star Trek series, and now I’m on Voyager. It’s better than I remember but of course I’m skipping the worst of it. Your guide (and Den of Geek’s) have been invaluable (and for the record, like you, I feel that DS9 is by far the best Trek…I loved it even more after having not watched it for almost 20 years).
My only points of contention with this section of the list: I felt that “Prey” and “Hope and Fear” were worth watching, if only because there are some wonderful character-building moments for Seven in both. Ray Weiss’ character’s story in “Hope” is also interesting, because I love it when aliens call out Voyager for being selfish and arrogant.
wow, Day of Honor is a top ten overall season worse for me. maybe I’m a softie, but the floating in space, dying in each other’s arms thing really got me. plus the huge development of 7, coming up with a constitutive solution that was generous and compassionate to the dumb species that had tried to coerce Voyager out of their supplies. excellently paced and written, imo.
The Star Trek: Voyager team ought to be losing sleep *still* over S4/E17 Retrospect (1998). Wish I had skipped it. Still feeling resentful. I don’t care that it was written 24 years ago. It’s still unforgivable. “You misremembered a man assaulting you so hard, he died.” I stopped watching in 1997, so this was my first time. Seasons 2 & 3 are bomb sci-fi. Most of season 4 has me questioning my binging choices.