“Star Trek: Voyager” Season 5: The Skip It/Watch It Guide
Whitney’s back, you guys, because there are seven full seasons of “Voyager” and our lord and savior Hugh Jackman knows that you need to know which ones to skip and which ones to watch. Here’s Season 5 — Seasons 6 and 7 are coming soon! –Liz
Some notes: Remember what I said all the way back in the season three guide about Tom and B’Elanna being boring? (Liz sure does!) [I sure do! We still disagree about that! –Liz]
In fact, that relationship starts to be one of Voyager‘s strengths as it goes on — once it gets past the cringe-inducing courtship stage and settles into a long-term relationship, their boring is great! They’re together, but they’re not together all the time. Each gets appropriately worried when the other is in a dangerous situation, but not to the point of completely breaking down. It’s an actual, grown-up relationship between two people who have to work together. The show gets over the painful stages of OMG WILL WE OR WON’T WE and OMG WE DID AND NOW WE MUST NOT TELL ANYONE and settles them down into, yep, we’re dating, the end. And that’s lovely.
I’m picking on romance in particular here because this season made so many attempts at it, and they all fell flat — all, that is, with the exception of Tom and B’Elanna, which remained a quiet, pleasant background constant (more or less).
There are two basic reasons I hate romance on Voyager. The first is that the only reason we get for why most people like one another is… that they’re supposed to like one another. I think a lot of it has to do with lazy writing, especially about the core cast: we as the audience are supposed to know why we like these characters already, so the story isn’t going to waste a lot of time telling us why the one-off characters who are in love with them even like them.
And this is, of course, putting aside all complaints about how you know that any relationship between people who aren’t in the core cast is doomed forever, because Voyager refuses to stay in one place for more than five minutes. I think the last recurring non-crew character was Seska, and we left her at the start of season three. We know we’re never going to see these guest stars again, so why bother getting emotionally invested in things that won’t matter forty minutes from now?
The second basic reason for my dislike is that romance on Voyager is almost always grossly, egregiously, unimaginatively heteronormative. Four centuries in the future, tens of thousands of light years from home, on a starship filled with and visiting tons of different alien races — and yet damn near every romantic pairing reads like some bad standup comic’s ‘men are like this, but women are like this‘ routine. Worse, when alternate gender/sex/family arrangements are mentioned, they’re punchlines to the joke diversity is.
And yes, I know that this was 1997, and now it is 2013, and it’s not fair to judge the past by the standards of the present. (I say that all the time, even!) Well, okay, maybe it’s not, but I think it is fair to criticize Voyager for being unable to envision a universe where white, middle-class Protestant morals aren’t the universal constant. This is science fiction, for heaven’s sake. Failure of imagination is the cardinal sin.
I’m picking on romance in particular here because this season made so many attempts at it, and they all fell flat. Let’s get started!
1. “Night”: Skip it. This is a sad example of what happens when you can’t have long plot arcs — so, so many interesting elements are presented and then dispatched with in this episode, all of which deserved to be pondered to some extent, and none of which were. (Why does Tom get to be the Rocketeer while Harry has to be Kato? No, wait, don’t answer that.)
2. “Drone”: Watch it. This episode rests entirely on Jeri Ryan’s shoulders, and she picks it up and walks off with it like the shapely Borg powehouse she’s supposed to be.
3. “Extreme Risk”: Skip it. This is an episode that suffers from Deep Space Nine‘s occasional problem where it decides not only that something is true, but that it’s been true for a long time (see: the various Changeling replacements of major characters) — but does so without having known in previous episodes that this is true. Here, B’Elanna’s apparently been exhibiting a lot of life-threatening self-injuring behaviors, and having them since sometime last season, but the show hasn’t known that, so there’s been no sign of it before now. I wish I could recommend it, but it’s a great idea done so badly that it’s best just left alone. You’ll see the pretty new shuttle again.
4. “In the Flesh”: Skip it. Even Ray Walston couldn’t pull this one out of the doldrums. This is another ‘rah rah humans!’ episode, though at least this time it isn’t Seven’s fault. (Even so, what the hell are you wearing, Seven? That bodysuit has, like, boob socks.) Once more, the whole of Starfleet and the Federation get shorthanded to ‘human’, and despite the token presence of other races in the background, humans are the only people worth consideration. Now, if this were a commentary on how anthropocentric Starfleet is, that would be one thing, but I don’t think the show notices the difference. (Also, the naked-lady silhouette changing scene was just gross and unnecessary.)
5. “Once Upon a Time”: Skip it. Yeah, I’m not surprised to learn that this episode was conceived as being much different from what it wound up being — all fairy tale with the ‘real world’ story told only in glimpses outside the holodeck. That would’ve been interesting and unique! Instead, it’s just another case of being worried about whether or not three people you know are going to survive are going to survive. Not bad, but mostly meh. …Sweet baby ducks, though, that Flotter doll is horrifying.
6. “Timeless”: Watch it. If you expected an episode with a title like this to be about something other than time travel … well, you were wrong. This episode is absolutely unmissable for four reasons: 1) drunk Seven of Nine, 2) super-hot DILF fugitives Chakotay and Harry, 3) DILF Harry being all catty about DILF Chakotay’s girlfriend, and 4) CAPTAIN GEORDI.
7. “Infinite Regress”: Watch it. YESSSS WATCH JERI RYAN ACT THE HELL OUT OF A BUNCH OF DIFFERENT PEOPLE AND HIT ON B’ELANNA THIS IS THE JUICE THE JUUUUUUICE
8. “Nothing Human”: Skip it. This might have been more affecting if the Bajoran actor hadn’t been kind of completely terrible. Or if all the debate about medical ethics hadn’t had hams for fists. I think this is an episode that wanted — and, frankly, deserved — to be a lot longer. It wasn’t, so don’t bother.
9. “Thirty Days”: Skip it. Or, you know, watch it if you want, but it’s pretty meh. Apparently the plot part of the episode was written and filmed, and after they figured out it was about ten minutes (!) short, they had to add a framing device. In its current state, it’s fine but missable.
10. “Counterpoint”: Skip it. Things Voyager is trying to do in this episode: romance. Things Voyager should have learned by now not to do: romance.
11. “Latent Image”: Watch it. Now this is a medical ethics episode. Its discussion of free will is pretty great, and the relevant cast members turn in some excellent performances.
12. “Bride of Chaotica!”: Watch it. This is the stupidest premise that ever did stupid. It is beyond stupid. It is the Platonic ideal of a stupid Star Trek premise. There is no possible way this campy holodeck nonsense should have worked. It’s delightful. I choose to blame-slash-thank Bryan Fuller.
13. “Gravity”: Skip it. I have zero hopes for any Voyager episode about romance, and yet the idea that Tank Girl was going to fall in love with Tuvok piqued my interest! But alas, it just clunked its way through, cluttering up an interesting premise — and some promising Vulcan backstory! — with some chemistry-less relationship crap. Trying to do four different stories at once just means none of them get done well.
14. “Bliss”: Watch it. It looks like a wormhole back to Earth, so you know it’s not a wormhole back to Earth. But at least Seven of Nine and Baby Wildman collectively have the brains God gave a chicken sandwich.
15-16. “Dark Frontier, Parts 1 and 2”: Watch it. Hello, nasty. Man, this is just like that one Bjork video.
17. “The Disease”: Skip it. At one point, Harry asks Seven what she thinks about love and Seven replies, “We’re scanning for microfractures.” I have never more than in that moment felt that her mind and mine were one. And you know, this is the 558th episode of any Trek series — why are we suddenly getting all huffy that someone from Starfleet banged an alien? [HAH! –Liz]
18. “Course: Oblivion”: Watch it. This is a qualified recommendation, though, because this one is bleak. It’s another case of a good idea marred by iffy execution — just as one example, this episode has some of the worst ‘as you know, [exposition]’ problems I have ever encountered, and that’s saying a lot. However, overall I think it’s worth it.
19. “The Fight”: Skip it. This episode does have Ray Walston and Sexy Boxing Chakotay going for it. Unfortunately, the rest is just a big mess of metaphorical visions sequences and a distortion filter on their CG models. It’s another case of a neat concept that would’ve been neater if they’d used it for more than three minutes.
20. “Think Tank”: Skip it. Okay, here’s the problem with writing super-genius characters: you have to actually write super-geniuses. You can’t just say they’re geniuses and list some genius accomplishments, then trick them with a fairly low-level bait-and-switch.
21. “Juggernaut”: Watch it. Or skip it. I suppose this balances out the ‘Thirty Days’ skip-it recommendation. It’s perfectly acceptable alien-monster-of-the-week fare, and what pushes it over into watch-it territory is how B’Elanna makes looking dirty and radiation-poisoned look good.
22. “Someone to Watch Over Me”: Skip it. Points for this episode: Scott Thompson guest-stars; Jeri Ryan and Robert Picardo are great actors; Jeri Ryan really does have a lovely voice; ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ is a very pretty song. Points against this episode: pushing Seven of Nine toward intimate interpersonal interactions she’s obviously quite happy without; throwing up in my mouth the whole time; like, seriously, Doctor; this is kind of gross. If you do watch, fast-forward to the parts where Scott Thompson is onscreen and skip the rest.
23. “11:59”: Skip it. Clunk clunk clunk. The show’s amnesia about the Eugenics Wars continues to be awkward. Also, sweet baby ducks, these actors are doing the best they can with this dialogue, but you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.
24. “Relativity”: Watch it. More evidence of the show’s failure of imagination: it’s the 29th century, and somehow the focal ship is still being run by two white human dudes who speak with cadences, accents, and vocabulary exactly the same as the 24th-century folk. Even though it ends up weakly slogging through paradox-tangling time-rules that seem to be made up on the fly, the strong start is worth seeing, and as long as you’re there, you might as well see it through.
25. “Warhead”: Skip it. This would be a totally stupid episode if it weren’t for the mad skills of Robert Picardo. Instead, it’s just sort of a rambling and ill-paced one with a melodramatic ending.
26. “Equinox”: Skip it. Voyager encounters another Federation ship that… seems to be populated entirely with humans, and is commanded by two white human dudes. But okay, they’re here too! But these guys have compromised their Human Morals and Human Ethics! Oh no! What is to be done?! …Nothing of consequence, that’s for sure. If you like your nuanced moral dilemmas presented so black-and-white you might mistake them for zebras, this is all yours; otherwise, let it go.
Okay, so that’s ten watch (if you count ‘Dark Frontier’ as one episode, as God intended), fifteen skip — the only season thus far to come in under average. I’m sad, since the season had some good highs, but its lows were dangerously low.
On a topic related to my earlier babbling: This rewatch has really convinced me of Seven’s greatness, but it’s also made me just skin-crawlingly horrified at times by the way the show thinks of her.
She remains so much a fetish object for the showrunners, and I think the clearest piece of evidence for that is how much a sex object she is for characters on the show.
I mean, in case you weren’t watching, her personality is terrifying and off-putting, and she has zero independent interest in striking up a romantic relationship — and yet, guys on the show fall for her right and left. She hasn’t been unhooked from the Borg Collective for precisely one episode before Harry Kim starts going on about his boner for her, and this season, it’s the Doctor’s turn to boldly go where no man in his right mind should want to go. She still has her assimilation tubes. She should be horrifying — and, to the show’s credit, sometimes she is! But mostly she’s a centerfold.
Thus far I’ve no cause to believe that the writers misunderstand her complete disinterest with sex and sexuality. But it’s as though she’s such a sexy lady that she’s not allowed to be disinterested, and if she’s going to avoid those discussions, then men around her are going to have them, loudly, whether she wants them to or not. (She doesn’t.)
When the Doctor pushes Seven forward into Hetero Dating Fun Times, it’s not because she has any interest in those aspects of human relationships, but because he (and the show) can’t conceive of a world in which a woman with a sexy body isn’t being primed to use that body for the pleasure of at least one lucky man around her.
It even shows in her appearance. I’m willing to set aside the issue of those ridiculous bodysuits, since I can accept that they’re the Trek-future’s version of the simplest possible attire (even if you cannot possibly argue the practicality of those high heels). But she’s got her hair and makeup done in every shot. Think for just a moment about Seven of Nine: Can you honestly imagine her putting on her face and pinning up her long, beautiful hair every morning? Or is it easier to picture her saying that ‘cosmetics are irrelevant’ and buzzing her hair down to Tuvok levels of easily managed?
All I can think of is James Cameron’s decision to make the female Navi have boobs, despite how the race isn’t mammalian, because ‘she’s got to have tits’. She can’t just be pretty; she has to be a babe. No matter what else the show thinks of her or her abilities, it always thinks that.
Posted on September 5, 2013, in Skip It/Watch It Guide, Some Spoilers, Spoiler Alert!, TV and tagged other people tell liz, skip it/watch it guide, star trek, star trek voyager, Voyager. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.