“Star Trek: Voyager” Season 7: The Skip It/Watch It Guide
And, after seven long seasons, it’s time for erstwhile “Voyager” chronicler Whitney Bishop to bring us home. Take it away, Whitney! –Liz
Geena Davis: “We just heard a fascinating and disturbing study, where they looked at the ratio of men and women in groups. And they found that if there’s 17 percent women, the men in the group think it’s 50-50. And if there’s 33 percent women, the men perceive that as there being more women in the room than men.”
Here, at the dawning of this last season of Voyager, I’ve got a theory for why, by the end, pretty much damn near every guest actor on the show is male — unless, of course, the character has to be a sex object, seduce someone, and/or give birth to someone, in which case that role can be filled by a lady — and that theory is basically summed up by that quote up there. The ratio hasn’t been great throughout the rest of the show, but by the end it’s just ridiculous. I think that the more time Janeway, Seven, and B’Elanna get, the more the show feels its gender quota has been filled and just defaults to male secondary characters.
I honestly think the lack of adult female roles has a lot to do with male perceptions of how women take up space. By the seventh season, Janeway still has the helm, Seven is an object of interest for many of the plots now, and B’Elanna’s pregnancy has pushed her back to frequent consideration where she once was absent from episodes entirely. Three women doing things is like having a show entirely about women, and therefore there’s no need to ensure gender diversity elsewhere.
To be clear, I’m not accusing anyone of malice or deliberate misogyny. But seeing seventeen percent and thinking it’s the same as half is just another indication of the failure of imagination that never let Voyager boldly go quite the way it should have. The show started out touting its female-led crew, but wound up not only struggling under its inability to keep up its initial promises of being Feminist Trek, but actually backsliding. That’s sort of sad.
And now, for Season 7…
1. “Unimatrix Zero, Part II”: Watch it. Love the Borg Queen. Hate the Seven romantic subplot. Actually, I hate the whole idea that Seven was actually a Special Borg to begin with, since her battle for individuality has been such a part of her character arc; it seems cheap to retcon it so that, actually, she’s had a lot of experience being an individual! I’m also issuing a special GROSS GROSS GROSS ALERT: for fuck’s sake, Doctor, can you please stop harping on Seven’s romantic/sexual development? For a guy who’s dead-set on making her comfortable with the social graces, he seems to be bound and determined to push her discomfort with her sexuality into red-flag territory.
2. “Imperfection”: Watch it. Bye-bye Borg babies! Well, all but one. They kept my favorite, and he turns in a good performance. There are a lot of eyes brimming manfully with unshed tears in this one. (This was also the episode that made me go on a five-minute rant on Twitter about how gay Janeway is for Seven, then apologize to my wife for doubting her seventeen-year-old self’s pairing instincts.)
3. “Drive”: Watch it. As I’ve established before, I hate it when Voyager does romance — and yet I found this (with minor exceptions) just plain adorable. I find all of Tom and B’Elanna’s trains of thought and miscommunications a totally logical part of a three-year relationship between two insecure yet functional adults who do, in fact, love one another.
4. “Repression”: Skip it. I wish this had been more interesting, but it was another disappointing example of spending too long with the setup and having nothing left for the payoff or — more importantly here — denouement. I love the idea of now, after all this time, dredging up the old anxieties between the Starfleet and Maquis crews, but this episode gets right up to the edge of real conflict, realizes it only had two minutes of running time left, and slaps on a smiley face and a monster movie. Yuck.
5. “Critical Care”: Skip it. I’ll give it that the metaphor for heartless health insurance conglomerates is both apt and ahead of its time, but this one’s nothing special.
6. “Inside Man”: Watch it. Because it’s important to the overall plot, and because if you skip a Barclay episode, you must be a monster with no soul. But the reasons for watching end right about there. It’s got a lot of clunky problems, and again, coming off of Deep Space Nine, I hate seeing Dumb Greedy Ferengi as a go-to source for villainy.
7. “Body and Soul”: Watch it. Just … ignore the wannabe-Twelfth-Night antics and console yourself with how Jeri Ryan’s impression of Robert Picardo is jaw-droppingly good.
8. “Nightingale”: Skip it. It’s not terrible, but it’s instantly forgettable.
9-10. “Flesh and Blood”: Skip it. Also not terrible, but definitely nothing great. I’m sort of baffled that this is the story the production team decided deserves two episodes’ worth of space to tell, while other, better tales get crammed into forty-minute blocks. If you like the Doctor and/or the Hirogen a lot, you’ll probably want to see it; if you don’t care, you won’t miss much.
11. “Shattered”: Watch it. This is basically a clip show, but I’ll never complain about a good clip show.
12. “Lineage”: Watch it. I’m not crying. You’re crying. Something about babies and dads. Shut up and hand me a tissue.
13. “Repentance”: Skip it. An interesting enough story about why the death penalty is evil, but I’ve already established a pattern of skipping episodes with hams for fists, and I see no reason to change my ways now.
14. “Prophecy”: Skip it. If after seven seasons in the Delta Quadrant you’re teeming with nostalgia for Klingons, be my guest. As I’m not, I’ll suggest giving it a pass.
15. “The Void”: Skip it. There are two major complaints I have with this episode: the first, I addressed earlier; the second is that it should have been the two-parter, and not the episode that followed. If it had been twice as long and hadn’t fast-forwarded through the second half with a series of montages, it would’ve been a much better episode.
16-17. “Workforce, Parts I and II”: Watch it. I dithered a lot on what rating to give this, since it’s not too terribly good, but I erred on the side of ‘watch’ for three reasons. First, I believe I’ve established a standing fondness for subtly different versions of characters, and this delivers on that. Second, it does do some cute stuff with B’Elanna’s feelings for Tom. And third, Chakotay gets to be an action hero, and I won’t say no to that. If that’s enough for you, then go for it!
18. “Human Error”: Watch it. Neelix, did you really just say that Seven’s drapes need to match her carpet? Well, that aside, this is an episode that begins the push for Seven/Chakotay, which I’d been told was going to happen — except it was getting so late in the season that I was beginning to wonder if I’d been misinformed. Much though I come to hate it later, it makes sense here, and Seven’s rarely seen emotional range is used to good effect.
19. “Q2”: Watch it. Oh, they cast John de Lancie’s real son as Q’s son! That’s so cute! And okay, he’s not the greatest actor, but he’s very sincere, and that makes up for a lot.
20. “Author, Author”: Watch it. There is a certain character’s entrance that made me clap my hands over my mouth and cackle, and that alone makes this necessary viewing.
21. “Friendship One”: Skip it. Let’s go, law of unintended consequences, let’s go. *clap clap*
22. “Natural Law”: Skip it. Oh, Voyager. Did you learn nothing from your predecessors? Did you not realize what a shitty, shitty idea it is to introduce a romance out of the blue in the eleventh hour of your final season?
23. “Homestead”: Watch it. The plot itself is weak, but it finally touches on an issue it frankly should have been talking about for some time now — namely, how Neelix doesn’t belong in the Alpha Quadrant any more than anyone else on the ship belongs in the Delta Quadrant.
24. “Renaissance Man”: Skip it. It’s a good idea that ultimately flops. I might’ve been more forgiving of it if it’d happened earlier in the season, but it’s sort of unbelievable filler considering it’s the next-to-last episode.
25-26. “Endgame”: Watch it. Of course you watch it; you have to know how the story ends, right?
And that’s Voyager! Better than I remembered it as being, not as good as it should have been. Final tally — again, counting each of the three double-length episodes only once — has thirteen to watch and ten to skip. Maybe it’s not season six’s shining ratio, but it’s better than average! We’ll take it.
Ultimately, Voyager‘s end hits like a piano dropped from a great height — it makes an impact, yeah, but you sure as hell didn’t expect it. Even though it’s maybe unfair to compare it to its sibling series, I’m going to do it here. The Next Generation ended somewhat abruptly, sure, but the show itself was never designed to have an overarching trajectory; in fact, its end wasn’t even an end, but just an acknowledgement of continuity that sailed on into the movies. Deep Space Nine had a ridiculously glorious ten-episode end run, which wrapped up a variety of plotlines that had been going on for a while, sometimes ever for years. And though I’d long since bailed on Enterprise by its last gasps, I’m given to understand that its suddenly future! finale was due mostly to its unexpected cancellation.
But Voyager had plenty of warning, and yet it still came to a halt like it just glanced over and saw the stop sign right as it was about to blast on by into the intersection. In fact, the only sign that the show is about to end comes when Neelix leaves the ship. If I hadn’t been watching with a guide, I would’ve been shocked out of my boots upon seeing them come out the other side of that transwarp conduit a stone’s throw from Earth. As it was, I wasn’t watching the clock, and I was shocked out of my boots to see them emerge into a mass of Starfleet ships … and then thirty seconds later, the episode — and thus the whole series — ends. They never even made it back to Earth proper. It was just … done.
On the whole, the series wasn’t bad at all! I mean, I’ve seen science fiction disasters, and this wasn’t one of them. But at the same time, it has a lot of serious, deep, structural flaws that hold it back. In fact, I’ve got some ideas about why Voyager was never as good as it should have been; I’ve said most of them before, in one form or another, but in light of the whole series, they are perhaps worth revisiting and adding to:
–It was never a priority. So often, the poor show suffered from being the forgotten middle child in the large Star Trek family — five of its seasons overlapped with Deep Space Nine‘s, the end of its run coincided with the development of Enterprise, and even when it was the only show running, the producers had their brains in making the much larger-budgeted Next Generation movies. If anything about the show ever felt like an afterthought, that’s because it probably was.
–It all but ignored several core characters. An ensemble show with an ensemble cast demands certain attention to all the players, and Voyager was never terribly good about that. Harry and Chakotay get flat-out forgotten for huge swaths of the series’ run, while Neelix, Tuvok, and B’Elanna at times fare only a little better. Even Janeway doesn’t get much time serving as the object of plots.
–It had no Big Picture. What do you mean? Of course it had a big picture! They were trying to get home! Well, all right, that was the stated Big Picture, but the constant small-scale plodding forward made for a very fuzzy overall trajectory. Even the seasons themselves had little, arc-wise, to hold them together. Unlike The Next Generation, where the point was to plod around the universe doing fetchquests, Voyager had from its start a single goal that trumped others. But it sort of shot itself in the foot by making that goal the necessary end of the series, meaning that every ‘maybe we’ll go home today!!!’ burst of hope is just the showrunners’ crying wolf again.
–It had no real core secondary cast. Here is a ship of 150-odd people, stranded together in the middle of nowhere, where every individual is precious and the crew complement is non-renewable … and the only people who really seem to matter are the core cast and about six other crew members, total. I recognize the budgetary limitations with television, but the scenario calls for a kind of intimacy among all parties that just didn’t translate. Honestly, it might have worked better if it’d just been seven people, period, marooned in a ship in the Delta Quadrant; at least that would’ve been a little more honest to real-world restrictions.
–It lacked continuity. Decisions got made that affected nothing after the episode in which they happened. The show so rarely built upon itself because so things seldom built lasting legacies and only rarely had long payoffs, meaning the show ended with an entire hank of loose ends dangling in the breeze.
–It lacked imagination. This, I think, is the first of its two unforgivable sins. In the Delta Quadrant, tens of thousands of light-years away from home, in deep uncharted territory — and what’s more, hundreds of years forward in plain ol’ human history, in the midst of diverse Federation dealings and contacts, living out a legacy of both human social progress and interaction with alien cultures — and yet it’s like taking a trip to Europe and only eating at McDonald’s. All alien races seem to have recognizable social organizations, family structures, gender binaries, heterosexual leanings — and yes, I know that Trek has always had this, but the entire point of this particular incarnation of the show was to maroon the crew in the unfamiliar. They run into at least three different major, multi-episode species whose female members we barely, if ever, see, and both the Kazon and Hirogen are deeply and openly misogynistic in very recognizably human ways. Species 8472 seemed like it had potential, and yet the only way the Voyager crew ever really interacts with them is when the aliens have their human costumes on. Damn near every bit of recognizable ‘nostalgia’ was human, white European/American, and from the 19th-20th century. The unfamiliar just wound up looking like the familiar, but with slightly different forehead prosthetics.
–It played it safe. And here’s the other. With a few notable and glorious exceptions, Voyager‘s edgy social commentary is generally confined to ‘genocide is bad’ and ‘don’t put profits over people’s health’ and ‘maybe some folk who get the death penalty don’t deserve it’ and ‘so it seems like being a Borg drone kind of sucks’ themes — all of which are pretty mainstream, as modern thought goes. There weren’t a lot of complexities or grey areas. Nobody was calling Paramount the way they did after Kirk and Uhura’s interracial kiss or Dax’s lesbian kiss. Maybe making a ship with a (conventionally attractive, white, middle-American) female captain would have been controversial in 1965, but 1995 doesn’t consider those laurels anything to rest on, and 2013 sure as hell isn’t impressed. And the show knows that the point of science fiction is to make a larger point — the sixth-season episode ‘Muse’ could not have been clearer about that — but it never lives up to its own standards there.
Maybe it’s a little harsh considering how much I liked large swaths of it, but I’m going to have to give Voyager an overall rating of Skip it. At the end of the day, it’s too many problems for not enough payoff. I’m willing to slog through some true dreck to get to a satisfying conclusion, and that’s the opposite of what happened here. The good episodes may on the whole outweigh the bad ones, but throwing the weak ending onto that scale tips the balance all the way to ‘don’t bother’.
Here’s a way to change that Skip it into a Watch it, though, and it has to do with the last episode. You have to do a selective viewing — whenever a Janeway is on the screen, watch that scene; whenever she’s gone, hit fast-forward until you see her again. You’ll miss some good stuff, but trust me, it’s better this way.
When Janeway is doing her last showdown with the Borg Queen — and you’ll know what it is when you get there — just turn off the episode. Go sit somewhere quietly for about twenty minutes and just think about how you wanted the show to end. Imagine that that’s what happened. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to tell you that, yes, at the end, they all get home, so let your mind linger on what you always wanted to have happen there. Imagine all the plot-guns on the mantles as they go off. Picture the reunions, fireworks, parades. It all happened, in all the time it needed. It was fantastic. It felt like closure. You only wish everyone else could have been there.
Posted on September 27, 2013, in No Spoilers, Other People Telling Liz Stuff, Skip It/Watch It Guide, TV and tagged other people tell liz, skip it/watch it guide, star trek, star trek voyager. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.