“Star Trek: Voyager” Season 6: The Skip It/Watch It Guide

The adventure continues thanks to the wonderful Whitney Bishop, who continues her quest through the Delta Quadrant with the cleanest refugees in Starfleet. Season 6 is here — we’re almost home, you guys! –Liz

Voyager_S6Season six of Voyager really becomes the Seven Show. On the one hand, that’s great, because Jeri Ryan is still the most talented cast member and Seven of Nine has some of the most interesting character development still left. Also, up until the end, it strayed away from the disasters that are usually her romance plots and embraced her ability to do other things, like take care of special-needs children and wear less makeup.

On the other hand, though, focusing on her means leaving a lot of good characters by the wayside. Nothing of note has happened to Chakotay in a good long while, and while Harry, Neelix, and Tuvok are present in a lot of scenes (and get to lead the plot in about an episode each), they’re generally supporting the action, not carrying it. That’s just death on a show that’s supposed to be an ensemble cast. I read that this season was a slog for Robert Beltran, and I have no problem believing that, considering how he was in every episode of the show (as was Tim Russ), but I don’t actually remember his being in most of the ones this season.

I’m also just going to point out the fact that three of the four cast members the show forgets about are three of its four cast members of color, put that down, and back away slowly. (If you’re interested in detailed-yet-spoilery statistics, Adherents.com has a list of Species / Race / Gender / Ethnicity Breakdown Among Star Trek Cast Members, which was a good read.)

SEASON SIX

1. “Equinox, Part II”: Skip it. (Assuming, of course, you skipped part one; if you watched part one, don’t leave yourself hanging.)Ah, so apparently when Ronald D. Moore hopped over to Voyager from Deep Space Nine, he started flipping all the tables about this episode. I am with him 100 percent on his analysis of its clunkiness (which you can find in the notes here).

It’s got a good basic idea that just fails forever in execution. (I also guess this episode is also proof that the creators didn’t watch Babylon 5, because if they had, they would’ve realized you’ve got to do a lot more to the ‘[body part]’s connected to the [body part]’ song to make it properly creepy. The duet is much better.) I would tell you to watch this two-parter if it affected anything that comes after it at all, but since it doesn’t, don’t bother.

2. “Survival Instinct”: Watch it. Despite certain people (who should have known better) advocating full Borg drone spa membership as a legitimate medical treatment, I liked this episode anyway. Seven gets to meet up with some old friends, and Naomi Wildman is always awesome, so you know that’s all right.

3. “Barge of the Dead”: Watch it. Ronald D. Moore and Bryan Fuller writing an episode originally conceived for DS9? You don’t say. The fact that the phrase ‘born-again Klingon’ is said in all seriousness should convince you how much this is a must-see.

4. “Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy”: Watch it. This episode is beyond stupid in a lot of places, and I’d believe it was one where they created the title and then made the episode up around it, but it’s also pretty entertaining. Majel Barrett also gets the best line, for a change. However, if you’ve got secondhand embarrassment problems — even though everything ends for the best, I promise — you’d best give this one a miss.

5. “Alice”: Skip it. The ship is a sexy evil seductress, and the bitch gets what’s coming to her. Boo. …All right, I will say this: This may be my favorite episode with Tom and B’Elanna thus far. That’s a ding-dang adult relationship, right there! But it doesn’t make up for the awful ship plot, so just sail on by.

6. “Riddles”: Watch it. OH MY GOD TIM RUSS’ SMILE IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING IN THE WORLD. Don’t get me wrong, I love Tuvok to pieces, he is my favorite Vulcan ever, but this episode really makes me feel that lack. If Voyager were on today, Tuvok/Neelix shippers (you know they’d exist) would rally around this episode forever. [I would think that that the episode where Tuvok and Neelix literally morphed into the same person would be that episode, but what do I know? –Liz]

7. “Dragon’s Teeth”: Skip it. Man, why don’t we ever meet any nice alien races? But no, it’s all stealth and treachery and lady-fridging. While there’s a PERHAPS WE HAVEN’T SEEN THE LAST OF THEM sting at the end, despite brief throw-away mentions in two seventh-season episodes, we actually have seen the last of them.

8. “One Small Step”: Watch it. This is a very good episode. This is also an episode about space travel and dying alone in deep space. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll be here with tissues beneath my eyes and my head between my knees. [“Gravity” premieres October 4th, y’all! –Liz]

9. “The Voyager Conspiracy”: Watch it. Seven of Nine hits her head, wakes up, thinks she’s Sherlock Holmes. Problem is, she’s a crap Sherlock Holmes. Good news is, Sherlock of Nine’s investigative failures are pretty entertaining.

10. “Pathfinder”: Watch it. Up until now, the rule is that our perception of the universe has been mostly limited to Voyager. Sometimes episodes show things happening on other ships and planets, but they’re all within Voyager‘s immediate range and they’re generally things the Voyager crew winds up having to deal with. We don’t know what’s going on back home because they don’t know what’s going on, and therefore everything they deal with that seems to come from the Alpha Quadrant (quite reasonably) has to go through a heavy filter of skepticism. This episode, set almost entirely in the Alpha Quadrant, changes the entire tenor of Voyager‘s journey home and takes away the ‘all alone in the night’ aspect of their return; now we know not only that someone is listening (and there have been moments of communication before), but that someone hears and understands. I’m not sure how I feel about that tone shift — which does continue for the rest of the series — but this is still a good episode.

11. “Fair Haven”: Skip it. Oh no, ship stuck in weird space thing, what do + holodeck scenario with obligatory quaint white European setting + romance = yuck. And weren’t we just talking about the problems of holodeck addiction?

12. “Blink of an Eye”: Watch it. I was afraid early on that this would be a clunker, but it was actually neat! And then Daniel Dae Kim showed up and it got even better. [YAY DANIEL DAE! –Liz]

13. “Virtuoso”: Skip it. Ugh, the meta, it burns, it burns. Plus, I’m sure they could have found worse guest alien actors, but it would’ve been difficult.

14. “Memorial”: Skip it. I wanted to like this one, I really did, but at the end of the day, it’s just too many different things each given too little attention, so that the whole plot is weak and scattered. Plus, didn’t we do this ‘memory of the genocidal people’ thing already?

15. “Tsunkatse”: Watch it. SPECIAL GUEST STAR THE ROCK. That’s right. I saw that in the credits and I put an automatic ‘watch it’ on this episode, sight unseen. It did not disappoint. Seven of Nine kicks the Rock in the face. If you want anything more than that out of life, I don’t know what to tell you. (Also, I wasn’t looking at the screen at one point, and in short succession I heard both Weyoun and Martok speak, which was a real head trip, coming so soon off rewatching DS9.)

16. “Collective”: Watch it. My main thought on finishing this one was, oh, I hope we see those Borg babies again.

17. “Spirit Folk”: Skip it. Ah, faith and begorra, ’tis a charming ye olde Irish holodeck adventure! Blarney.

18. “Ashes to Ashes”: Skip it. Hey, everyone remember this super-awesome ensign who died three years ago and whom we’ve thought about every day since even though we’ve never mentioned her before this? Yeah. Also, is the Universal Translator selectively broken again? I hate it when that happens. Look, this is the kind of episode that would’ve been great if it had been the end payoff of some three-year setup. As it is, it’s just sort of random.

19. “Child’s Play”: Watch it. Borg babies! Well, okay, we technically saw them in the last episode, but you skipped the last episode, right? So: Borg babies!

20. “Good Shepherd”: Skip it. This and ‘Ashes to Ashes’ showcase the problem of having a theoretically finite cast on a television show that can’t afford a steady stable of extras. While it’s nice that we’ve suddenly got three more people on the ship with names and personalities and speaking roles, I’ll eat a penguin if we ever see any of them again. (Okay, I just checked, and apparently the klutzy Bajoran will show up again. So I’ll eat a third of a penguin.)

21. “Live Fast and Prosper”: Watch it. Damn my eyes, I’m a sucker for fake versions of familiar Trek characters, including mirror universes, alternate histories, and — as happens here — knockoffs played by different actors.

22. “Muse”: Watch it. Okay, this episode is just ridiculously in violation of the Prime Directive, but the play parts are great fake Greek drama and (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) the meta is actually pretty good, both as a tongue-in-cheek nod to early ‘shipping culture and as a discussion of the point of science fiction in general. B’Elanna makes a great point about how when you’re in the midst of protracted stressful situations, the last thing you think about is romance, which is something I really wish someone had said to the Voyager writing staff six seasons ago. And you can definitely see why someone nominated this for a costuming Emmy.

23. “Fury”: Watch it. Okay, see what I said about “Ashes to Ashes” up there? This is a several-year payoff. Unfortunately, it’s kind of a shaky payoff — the titular “fury” here is less rage and more slightly miffed kitten tantrum. Still, I won’t even remotely spoil what happens because it’s so worth it.

24. “Life Line”: Watch it. Forty-five minutes of Robert Picardo yelling at himself? I’ll buy that for a quarter.

25. “The Haunting of Deck Twelve”: Watch it. Oh no, ship caught in weird space thing, what do. Why… tell ghost stories! Which I adore, by the way, so there was basically no way this one was going to get skipped.

26. “Unimatrix Zero, Part I”: Watch it. Watch with reservations: one, it’s a little ‘The Best of Both Worlds’ there at the end (and if you know what I’m talking about, then I’ve already spoiled the cliffhanger for you, and for that I apologize); two, apparently the ‘producers opted to pursue a romantic story for Seven instead of a father-daughter reunion’, so you can imagine how that goes.

…Holy crap, seventeen ‘watch’ to nine ‘skip’? Season six, you did yourself proud! [I would never suggest Stockholm Syndrome. Never. –Liz]

It’s hard to put my finger on what made this season so watchable when compared to all the others. (Spoilers for my own guides: season seven will be more watch than skip, but not nearly by this wide of a margin.) I think it comes down to three major things:

One, the show begins to establish some continuity. The most prominent example of this is the appearance — and reappearance —  of the Borg babies. I was so sure the show had become so continuity-averse that by the end of ‘Collective’, no matter how much I hoped we’d see them again, I was absolutely sure we weren’t going to. But they do come back, to my surprise and delight, and in doing so they provide the core of a lot of good episodes. ‘Pathfinder’ also introduces the recurring Barclay storyline, which provides at least something of a trajectory. While I personally wish the show had stuck to a more isolationist approach, I can’t deny that establishing communication with Starfleet at last gives some sort of plot anchor.

Two, this season overall focuses less on ADVENTURE!! and more on character development. ‘The Haunting of Deck Twelve’ is a fantastic example of this: at its core is a standard hostile-alien-threatens-ship-from-inside Trek plot, but instead of handling it like a straight-up adventure narrative, the episode tells a story about Neelix and the Borg babies and fear and stories in general. That makes for episodes less about how to thwart the interchangeable one-shot aliens and more about the people at the core of the show. I love a good action plot as much as the next Trek fan does, but I love it best when what happens matters.

And three, it begins to write hard for Seven and the Doctor. Now, my complaint from earlier still stands, and I absolutely don’t think the show should have turned the majority of its episodes over to them to the exclusion of everyon else. However, Jeri Ryan/Seven of Nine and Robert Picardo/the Doctor are far and away the best the show’s got going for it in terms of the perfect meeting between fantastically talented actors and their compelling characters (Tim Russ is also fantastically talented, for instance, but Tuvok’s Vulcan stoicism can’t carry the tone the show wants), and I feel the show really started here writing to their respective ranges.

In other words, it seems like they finally started writing good stories about interesting characters because they knew those two strong actors could carry the tough stuff. That’s a great approach to take! Might have been nice if they could’ve made it work for the other characters too.

Whitney Bishop is editor-in-chief of Shousetsu Bang*Bang. She is also the best for doing this.

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About A "Liz Tells Frank" Guest Writer

I'm a guest writer for Liz Tells Frank What Happened In..., which makes me a very special breed of person, and someone Liz admires deeply! Want to become a guest writer yourself? Just reach out to Liz and ask!

Posted on September 19, 2013, in Other People Telling Liz Stuff, Skip It/Watch It Guide, Some Spoilers, TV and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Been rewatching the whole series along with these so always excited to see there’s a new one out. Sad there’s only one season left!

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