The good, the bad and the Voyager

“My mind to your mind, my thought — wait, wait, who’s this ‘Wormtongue’?”

As is our practice when ending series, we’re going to wrap Voyager by noting our favorite and least favorite non-Tapestry episodes. But before we getting into that …

The episodes we probably should have included in the Tapestry

“Meld” — Tuvok mindmelds with psychopathic former Maquis Suder (Brad Dourif) to provide him balance after he commits a murder, but Tuvok becomes unhinged in the process. It’s one of the best uses of Tim Russ, and Dourif is, of course, fantastic. It also sets up Suder to be the hero who essentially saves the ship in “Basics”.

“The Killing Game” — The two-parter is an over-the-top romp (to be kind) in which the Voyager crew (unknowingly) plays the parts of World War II characters in a Hirogen hunting program. It’s ridiculous, and the ship is absolutely wrecked (and is fine the next week, of course). But it’s important in that Janeway makes peace by providing the Hirogen with holodeck technology, which leads to the decent “Flesh and Blood” two-parter in season seven and Voyager’s look at holographic rights.

“I believe ‘Patterns of Force’ was a better episode. But, at least this isn’t as dumb as ‘Storm Front’.”

Other episodes you should watch

“Phage” — We meet the Vidiians, secondary bad guys in Voyager’s first couple seasons, who harvest organs to help combat a disease that is killing their race. The Vidiians had their moments — and were arguably more interesting than the primary villains at that time, the Kazon — but they essentially became the stand-ins for Villains of the Week, so we didn’t figure their introduction was Tapestry worthy.

“Eye of the Needle” — We almost included it in the Tapestry, as it sets up the recurring Voyager trope, sometimes known as “Gilligan’s Island Syndrome,” wherein the ship nearly finds a way home but is disappointed in the end (by season seven, this was a sort of meta-joke). Still, it’s a good episode in that it’s the first time Voyager dealt with crushing disappointment since the pilot.

“The Thaw” — A trippy episode that could have been right out of TOS, with Janeway playing the part of Kirk. Plus a cool guest appearance by Michael McKean.

“Doctor, can you explain to me how the clothes worn by Tuvok and Neelix merged? Because that just seems ridiculous.”

“Tuvix” — One of Voyager’s most controversial episodes as a transporter accident combines Neelix and Tuvok. Janeway decides to kill Tuvix to restore the other two men. Thought provoking in a good way. Of course, the whole thing is barely discussed again, even though it should have had profound effects on Tuvok and Neelix.

“Resolutions” — Janeway and Chakotay are forced to stay on a planet to avoid dying of some weird disease, and Voyager (briefly) goes on without them. They’re eventually recovered, but not before providing fodder for Janeway/Chakotay “shippers” for years. Of course, it’s oddly placed at the end of the second-season Kazon arc, as we discussed.

“Before and After” — A flash-forward and backward as we see glimpses of an alternative future of Voyager as Kes goes back in time starting from six years in the future. One of Voyager’s best hours.

“Mortal Coil” — Neelix dies, is brought back to life by the Doctor and struggles to figure out why he didn’t experience the Talaxian afterlife. Ethan Phillips and Robert Beltran rise to the occasion in a nice episode that provides some necessary depth for Neelix.

“Living Witness” — The Doctor’s backup program, on an alien world in the distant future, must correct the record when he learns the Voyager crew have been depicted as nasty oppressors. It’s a great Trek episode that is sold by Robert Picardo.

“Thirty Days” — Paris acts against orders to save a water world from Kevin Costner. Well, except the “from Kevin Costner” part. A nice episode that examines Paris and his rebellious streak.

“Does your show have better continuity than mine? I bet it does.”

“Bride of Chaotica!” — Janeway must go “undercover” in Paris’ schlocky sci-fi holodeck program. It shouldn’t work at all, but it does. Good work by the cast in what could have been a disaster.

“Homestead” — The crew says goodbye to Neelix, who leaves the ship to join a Talaxian colony two episodes before the end of the series. The final moments — particularly between Tuvok and Neelix — are actually quite poignant. We see Neelix just once more, in a brief viewscreen discussion with Seven in the far less effective “Endgame”.

“If you want my body … and you think I’m sexy … “

Top 10 episodes to avoid

10. “Elogium” — Kes’ mating cycle gets moved up. It’s not often you can vomit and fall asleep at the same time, so if that was the intended effect from the creators …

9. “Barge of the Dead” — Conversations with Torres’ dead moms in Klingon spiritual nonsense. The acting isn’t terrible (Roxanne Dawson does what she can) but the attempt to address spirituality is awful.

8. “Flashback” — Not terrible on its own, but inexcusable in that it wasted a guest appearance by George Takei and the Excelsior crew from “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country”. We learn that the Excelsior mission really had nothing to do with the weird ailment affecting Tuvok that prompts the flashback. What a joke. It also pisses all over the referenced movie’s continuity.

7. “Favorite Son” — Something about Kim being breeding stock on an alien world. Why, Voyager, why?

6. “The Disease” — Kim falls in love with an alien and we learn (eye roll) that Starfleet captains have to approve their crew members’ romantic interactions with aliens — running counter to a lot of what we’ve seen since 1966. No, Voyager. No.

5. “Q2” — Q’s troublesome son born in “The Q and the Grey” comes to Voyager, and even John de Lancie looks bored. Oh, and this was the LAST Q EPISODE IN SECOND-GENERATION TREK!

4. “Fair Haven” — Something about a stupid (and horribly stereotypical) Irish town on the holodeck. Not good.

3. “Spirit Folk” — And the residents of the Irish town become … self-aware. Stop it, Voyager. Just stop it.

2.  “Course: Oblivion” — The crew replicants from “Demon” build their own Voyager, forget that they’re replicants, leave their planet, travel a great distance … and then die. What utter drivel. How did the replicants FORGET THEY WERE REPLICANTS? How were they able to travel as far as they did? This is actually a good example of Voyager attempting continuity — which the show did more in the later seasons — in ways that are just laughably dumb.

1. “Threshold” — No surprise here. Voyager’s (and possibly all of Trek’s) most ridiculous episode as Paris breaks the warp 10 barrier and evolves … into a lizard … and mates with … Janeway … who also evolves into … a lizard. Really. Oh, and then Chakotay just LEAVES the pair’s offspring on some random planet. That said, we almost kept this out of the bottom spot because it’s so bizarre that it’s more watchable than, say, “The Disease”. But, no, for bad science alone, “Threshold” deserves this ranking. It’s probably not Trek’s absolute worst episode — “And the Children Shall Lead”, “A Night in Sickbay” and “Sub Rosa” are all harder to sit through. But it’s just so weird and ridiculous that it definitely gets Voyager’s worst spot.

“At least I’ll get better writers when ‘Orange is the New Black’ rolls around in about 15 years.”

Two other episodes that really piss us off

You knew we couldn’t let the door close on Voyager without two more shots and what the series could and should have been, but wasn’t. We noted that “Equinox” and “Endgame” were two of the show’s worst examples of wasted opportunities — even if they weren’t totally unwatchable. Here are two more:

“Deadlock” —  A riveting outing (for its first two-thirds) in which two Voyagers occupy the same space and one must sacrifice itself so the other will survive. Of course, the surviving Voyager is in shambles one minute and basically ship-shape the next. Gah.

“Year of Hell” — Perhaps the most ambitious thing Voyager attempted, until the predictable and galling reset at the end. This could have been absolute classic Trek, as it had great sci-fi ideas, a strong villain in Annorax (Kurtwood Smith) and arguably the best performances in the series by Kate Mulgrew, Beltran and Russ. But as part two ends, it’s back to business as usual. And that’s the way Voyager almost always wanted it, I guess.

Whether it was a goofy tendency to use the reset button, an endless supply of shuttles, a seeming surplus of red shirts, a lack of consequences for Janeway’s reckless actions (in the later seasons) or a ship that could recover far too quickly on the regular after having been beaten to hell by random aliens, Voyager was Trek’s biggest waste of potential, despite a strong cast and some great standalone moments. To paraphrase Janeway in “Endgame”, Voyager too often had its cake and ate it, too — in attempts to use the show’s unique premise while also staying too true to old-school Trek.

In so doing, Voyager became the most frustrating — and, I’d say, the worst — of the five Trek series.

Coming later this week …

The longest and weirdest episode of “Quantum Leap” begins. And no, not the one where Sam leaps into a monkey.

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