Category Archives: 1996

“The Q and the Grey”

Ask your doctor if Q-alis is right for you.
Ask your doctor if Q-alis is right for you.

Q returns and wants to get busy with Janeway (um), complete with a heart-shaped bed (not a good sign). He eventually tells her the instability brought on by the suicide of the other Q in “Death Wish” has started a civil war (all right), with Normal Q on the rebellious side (fair enough). He wants Janeway’s help to create a child (excuse me?) to be a sort of messiah that all the Q can unite around (wait, what?). Then, Q’s old flame — a Q played by Trek favorite Suzie Plakson — shows up on the ship calling Janeway a “dog” and a bunch of other ridiculous things (oh, help me, Rhonda). A bunch of supernovas are happening around Voyager — apparently, caused by the fighting in the Continuum (weird) — and Normal Q transports himself and Janeway to the Continuum, represented to Janeway as the American Civil War (no, no, no). Female Q helps Chakotay get the ship into the Continuum (unlikely) where the crew, armed with Q weapons (oh, please) helps save Normal Q and Janeway from a firing squad (can I get my check?). Then, the fighting ends and Normal Q and Female Q decide to mate (which they could have done in the first frakking place). Back on the ship, Q shows up with what appears to be a human infant in a Starfleet uniform (baby cuteness aside, gah) and asks Janeway to be the godmother (huh?) and says she might need to babysit sometime (get my gun). Roll credits (thank goodness).

Why it’s important

Well, the Q are sort of like gods, and there’s a civil war among gods because of Voyager’s (reasonable) actions a year earlier. Given Q’s importance in second-generation Trek, a civil war among the Q is a really important, really cool concept.

But, what a disaster of a way to do it. Easily one of Trek’s biggest misfires.

Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn how silly this premise is. And neither do the writers.
Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn how silly this premise is. And neither do the writers.

What doesn’t hold up

I don’t even know where to start. Well, yes I do.

Q (thanks in large part to the wonderful John de Lancie) is a great part of second-generation Star Trek. He brings humor to shows that could often be too stodgy (particularly TNG) and often infused a meta quality (like playing the part of fans and commenting on Riker’s beard). Indeed, some Q episodes are great, like “Q Who”, “Tapestry”, “All Good Things … “ and “Death Wish”. But others are only saved from being awful by de Lancie and his ability to spar with Patrick Stewart or Kate Mulgrew. See DS9’s “Q-Less”, or TNG’s “Hide and Q” and (arguably the worst showing) “Qpid”.  This episode isn’t quite as bad as that one, but “The Q and the Grey” is a great example of where Q episodes can go wrong.

Essentially, Q’s antics become too ridiculous and he (and/or the Q, generally) end up looking not all that all-powerful. It was trippy and cool when the Continuum was represented as a small town along a desert road in “Death Wish”. It’s just ridiculous that the Voyager crew, inside the Continuum, could use Q weapons and actually turn the tide in a battle represented by an American Civil War venue. Actually, it’s the kind of distinction that you can see while marathon-watching TOS, with the effectiveness of an Earth-like setting (necessitated by real-world budgets) depending largely on whether the written rationale made any sense — think the difference between the laughable “Yangs” and “Comms” in “The Omega Glory” and the cool partial Western town in “Spectre of a Gun”.

Bottom line, everything that “Death Wish” got so right, this episode gets so very, very wrong. If not for de Lancie and Plakson (and, Mulgrew, who shined most in episodes where she could banter with a character who had an outside perspective, be it a Q or a Borg) this would be one of Voyager’s worst showings. As is, it’s still one of it’s most ridiculous. Thank goodness “Threshold” is around to make “The Q and the Grey” look somewhat reasonable.

Let's play "Glory or Voyager" screencap game.
Let’s play ‘Glory or Voyager’ screencap game.

Final thoughts

We only see Q once more in Voyager (and in all of Trek) in Voyager’s final season, when Q’s troublemaking son shows up on Voyager — in another example of making the Q too “funny” and not menacing enough. Given the misfire in this episode, it’s not all that disappointing that Voyager mostly moved away from Q, I suppose.

That said, Q does call Neelix a “bar rodent,” so maybe I need to adjust my thinking …

Coming later this week …

Torres has a fever, and the only prescription, is more Paris. No word on the gold-plated diapers.

“Future’s End”

The hit mid-90's drama NCC-74656 coming up after 90210.
The hit mid-’90s drama, ‘NCC-74656’, coming up after ‘90210.’

Part one: Voyager encounters a Federation time ship (what-the-what?) from the future, whose Commander Braxton (Allan Royal) is intent on destroying Voyager to prevent the destruction of Earth’s solar system in the 29th century. Janeway tries to stop him and Voyager is thrown back in time (naturally) to 1996. Once there, Janeway, Chakotay, Tuvok and Paris go undercover and discover that Henry Starling (Ed Begley Jr.) is a ’90s tech mogul who used Braxton’s time ship (that crashed on Earth in the late ’60s) to build his tech empire — essentially creating the computer revolution of the 20th century. Now out of ideas, Starling is set to use Braxton’s recovered ship to get more technology from the future. When Janeway tries to stop him, Starling steals much of Voyager’s database — and the Doctor.

Part two: Paris and Tuvok recover the Doctor (now equipped with a mobile emitter from Starling) and Janeway beams Starling aboard Voyager. But Chakotay and Torres — on board a shuttle — crash and are taken captive by (no joke) a militia group. They’re eventually recovered, but not before Starling escapes and leaves in his stolen time ship — intent on going into the future to recover more technology “for the betterment of mankind.” The crew eventually stops him and resets everything to where Braxton (with no knowledge of the events of the two-parter) comes from the future to investigate Starling’s time anomaly. All is set right — but Braxton tells Janeway that the Temporal Prime Directive won’t allow him to let them stay in the Alpha Quadrant. The crew then resumes its long voyage home back in the 24th century.

Tell me more about medicine in the 24th century. I haven't cracked open a medical textbook since St. Elsewhere.
Tell me more about medicine in the 24th century. I haven’t cracked open a medical textbook since ‘St. Elsewhere.’

Why it’s important

Well, if not for the events of this episode, the computer revolution of the late 20th century would have never happened. So, that’s a pretty big deal — and a nice touch by the creators. Beyond that, the Doctor is freed from sickbay for the rest of the series, as his new mobile emitter from Starling allows him to now be a full-fledged member of the crew. As the Doctor was the breakout character of the series at this point, finding a believable way for him to be more involved was a good and well-executed idea.

What doesn’t hold up

Well, the time travel nonsense is just, well, nonsense. Starting in early Voyager and mid DS9, the creators clearly decided that having time travel make any sense was a lost cause — allowing effect to precede cause, etc. This was something Voyager was doing almost immediately after the pilot, so it’s not even worth getting too excited about.

Beyond that, it’s goofy that Janeway would send Tuvok and Torres on missions where they could have been discovered as aliens on Earth. Granted, this happened with Spock in “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”, but that situation was different in that Kirk only had seven crew members to choose from. Although I suppose Kirk did bring Spock with him to Earth in the 1960s in “Assignment: Earth”, so maybe I shouldn’t be too hard on Janeway.

Finally, the death of Starling at the end of the episode — by way of a torpedo fired by Janeway as he’s about to enter a “temporal inversion” — would have likely raised flags on Earth, right? Put another way, if Bill Gates just disappeared — after an incident where an unknown aircraft flew out of his office window in downtown LA — wouldn’t there have been some questions?

"Tuvok and Paris: Beach Justice" up next after an all new episode of "Blossom"
‘Tuvok and Paris: Beach Justice’ up next after an all new episode of ‘Blossom’

Final thoughts

This is a fairly entertaining two-parter that utilized the cast well. The Paris/Tuvok combo was always one of Voyager’s best and the Doctor was in rare form in his encounters with Starling. That said, Rain Robinson, the 20th-century human who helps Paris and Tuvok (played by Sarah Silverman, before she was famous) is pretty inconsistent as characters go and almost a ’90s cliche who drives a 1960s hippy van, for some reason. Some of the scenes with her and Paris work but others are just painful.

I did sort of like the irony that Braxton wouldn’t let Voyager stay in the Alpha Quadrant because of the Temporal Prime Directive. In the long history of Star Trek, our heroes often refused assistance to incredulous aliens because of the regular Prime Directive. Turnabout is fair play, I suppose.

Coming next week …

Q’s back and he’s gonna be in trouble.


Chakotay: Captain, I need to head back into Kazon space... for my baby momma.
Chakotay: Captain, I need to head back into Kazon space… for my baby mama.

Part one: Voyager receives a message from Seska indicating she and Chakotay’s child (spawned without his consent back in “Maneuvers”) are in danger. Chakotay and Janeway decide to go into Kazon territory to try to recover the child, but Seska’s message turns out to be a trick to lure the ship into a trip. The Kazon take over the ship — with only the Doctor and Betazoid psychopath Lon Suder (Brad Douriff, returning from “Meld”) on board — and desert the crew on a harsh planet with no resources. Paris, however, does escape in a shuttle with the hopes of asking a Talaxian convoy for assistance. But his fate — as the episode ends — is unclear.

Part two: Janeway and Co. must survive on the barren planet, which is home to primitive humanoids, at least one dinosaur-like monster and volcanic activity. Seska and Culluh, though, are happy aboard Voyager and are moving away at high warp. The Doctor — who makes Seska believe he has no real loyalty to Janeway and informs Seska that her child is in fact Culluh’s son and not Chakotay’s — hooks up with Suder, who wants to save the ship but doesn’t want to kill to do it. Paris, alive and relatively well, convinces the Talaxians to help retake the ship and contacts the Doctor with a plan that requires Suder to do something or other in engineering, which is heavy with Kazon. The plan works, Suder kills a bunch of Kazon (but is killed as well), Seska is killed in the attack and Culluh takes the child and abandons Voyager. Paris then takes the ship back to the barren planet where the Voyager posse (minus a couple dead crew members) returns to the ship and heads for home.

You think killing my character will make the show better? Hunh.
“You think killing my character will make the show better? Hunh.”

Why it’s important

This two-parter essentially ended the Kazon/Seska arc, so it’s significant in that regard. As noted in previous reviews, the Kazon storyline was pretty much the through line for Voyager’s second season, and there were several other bits of continuity in this episode, including Chakotay consulting his dead father (seen in “Tattoo”) through a vision quest and, of course, Suder. More on him in a moment.

But the events here are essentially forgotten, otherwise — other than the death of engineer Hogan (Simon Billig), which is a key part of a later episode. This two-parter doesn’t feature a time-travel reset that essentially erases what actually happened. But it also could have. The Voyager crew doesn’t seem changed by its experiences and everything post-“Basics” is about how things were pre-“Basics” (minus Hogan and Suder) — other than the fact that the Kazon aren’t popping up every other episode to mess with our heroes.

There's an old earth show... Land of the Lost... that may be applicable here.
“There’s an old Earth show… Land of the Lost… that may be applicable here.”

What doesn’t hold up

Oh, boy. Where to start?

There’s the whole issue in part one of Voyager going deep into Kazon territory to get Chakotay’s “son.” The action is sort of compelling, but the implication is that Voyager is far outside Kazon territory — when we’ve seen essentially the same Kazon faces since “Maneuvers” or even back to “State of Flux” — and needs to get into it. This is a spot where the creators messed up their attempts at serialization, as we’ve noted in prior reviews.

The previous episode, “Resolutions”, involves Janeway and Chakotay contracting a disease on some random planet that they then can’t leave. Voyager departs without them and is actually captained by Tuvok for several weeks. Eventually, the ship gets a cure from the Vidiians (Voyager’s second-tier bad guys in the first two seasons) and recovers Janeway and Chakotay. Then, because it’s Voyager, things are back to business as usual.

The creators probably shouldn’t have had Voyager move away at warp for more than a few days in “Resolutions”. But given that they did — and that Voyager is out of Kazon space after “Basics” — Tuvok’s decision to go back for Janeway and Chakotay essentially put the ship at risk. Without reversing course, Seska’s message might not have even reached Voyager, to say nothing of the fact that Tuvok would have likely opted not to save the child if Janeway and Chakotay were not on the ship.

If the creators really needed to have a Tuvok-led Voyager move away from Janeway and Chakotay for several weeks, they should have noted in “Basics” that returning for them likely put them back near Kazon territory. Or, “Resolutions” and “Basics” shouldn’t have aired back-to-back. Hell, “Resolutions” is a pretty interesting episode — especially for the Janeway/Chakotay romance fans — and it might have worked well to end the second season with both parts of “Basics” with “Resolutions” kicking off season three. Then, some time would have elapsed between the episodes.

As for “Basics” on its own, I’ll give the creators the detail that Janeway would have put her entire crew at risk for Chakotay’s “child,” as she did the same thing to save Chakotay in “Maneuvers”. But I don’t buy — for one second — that Culluh wouldn’t have simply killed the Voyager crew (rather than deserting them) or that the Kazon would be so adept at running the ship. Part two is even worse, really, because it relies on the Talaxians helping Paris — their rationale for doing so is weak at best, especially given how dealing with Paris put them in danger in “Investigations” — and that Paris’s plan would work so perfectly. It’s also odd that Paris is able to find Voyager so easily and that the Talaxians are even available to help him. And why, exactly, did Culluh give up the ship so easily? It’s sort of implied that he’s heartbroken over the loss of Seska. But that’s not in keeping with the character.

Final thoughts

Then, there’s the matter of Suder.

I give the Voyager creators credit for bringing him back after the very good “Meld”, rather than simply having him join the ranks of that weird alien Riker met in “Future Imperfect”. In fact, we almost reviewed “Meld” as the introduction of Suder is key in retaking the ship in “Basics”. Looking back, maybe we should have …

But, then Voyager decides to be all Voyager and unnecessarily kills Suder. Bringing him back as a recurring character would have been extremely interesting. Making Janeway decide what to do with a psychopath who saved the ship would have been even more interesting. But this two-parter (and what we see in subsequent episodes) makes me think the creators decided season two was a misstep and that it was time to wash their hands of it. That we never again see the Kazon or Vidiians (aside from flashbacks) and that Voyager becomes even more episodic (sigh) in season three makes me think they looked at season two as a failure. And, it was — but not because the serialization was bad. It was the execution.

Coming later this week …

More TNG in the Delta Quadrant, but a good example of it.



Didn't think they could make me more annoying? Guess again!
<shudder>LIVE with Kelly and Neelix</shudder>

Neelix has a morning talk show on Voyager. Then, he learns that Paris — who has been acting like a jerk basically since he turned into a lizard or something in the enormously awful “Threshold” — is leaving the ship to join a Talaxian convoy. Almost immediately after, he’s captured by the Kazon. Meanwhile, Neelix uncovers covert transmissions to the Kazon and Janeway and Tuvok inform him that Paris leaving the ship is all a ploy to draw out whoever’s been communicating with the Nistrim — whom viewers know is Michael Jonas, first established in “Alliances”. After a talk with Seska, Paris escapes and informs Janeway as he returns to the ship that Jonas is the traitor. Jonas and Neelix end up fighting in engineering and Jonas is killed in the struggle. Paris makes it back to Voyager — and lets everyone know his behavior was part of a larger plan.

You're going to wear that on a Talaxian colony? Have you seen how dapper I dress?!
“You’re going to wear that on a Talaxian convoy? Have you seen how dapper I dress?!”

Why it’s important

This episode is borderline for the tapestry, but it’s the next step in the Kazon storyline that was so much of the show in season two. It’s also the finalization of the Jonas plot that had been going on since “Alliances”, so we decided to include it.

Happy to see me?! I'm going to lock you in a room with a computer and I trust you'll just sit quietly and await interrogation.
“Happy to see me?! I’m going to lock you in a room with a computer and I trust you’ll just sit quietly and await interrogation.”

What doesn’t hold up

So much of this episode is just ridiculous. While it’s somewhat laudable that the creators built the Jonas and malcontent Paris storylines up over several episodes, the execution, again, is off.

Let’s talk about Paris first. As noted above, his bad behavior begins — and is apparently orchestrated — shortly after his trip at warp 10 turned him into a lizard back in “Threshold”. That episode is among Trek’s stupidest hours and only should be watched for amusement’s sake (we won’t be reviewing it). But, given the timing, would it have been all that difficult for Voyager to use that experience as the alleged rationale for Paris’s behavior? Even a line in the scene before Paris leaves the ship about how he “hasn’t felt the same” since the warp 10 trials would have been easy to insert. So what if some viewers would have been confused for three seconds? Classic Voyager misstep.

Then, there’s the plan itself.

Essentially, Janeway, Tuvok and Paris decide that Paris will act like a jerk for several weeks to justify his move to eventually sign on with a Talaxian convoy. They figure that the news will make it to the Nistrim — and that the Nistrim will try to move on the convoy and capture Paris, who can then discover the identity of the spy and then (I guess?) make it back to Voyager. There’s just so much about this plan that’s remarkably stupid.

For one thing, how did Janeway, et. al, know that the Nistrim would be able to attack the convoy so quickly? We know from previous episodes that the Nistrim has like six ships. What if it had taken the Nistrim several weeks to find the convoy and capture Paris? Voyager, which is supposed to be moving quickly toward the Alpha Quadrant, might not have been able to retrieve Paris in time.

But let’s say Janeway and Tuvok planned for that and figured, after a few weeks, they’d find the convoy and retrieve Paris if the plan didn’t work. Wouldn’t they have abandoned the plan because it put the Talaxians in very real danger? Granted, the convoy commander tells Janeway that no one was hurt or killed in the attack, but Janeway couldn’t have known that in advance. The Kazon are freaking brutal thugs. It’s not out of the question that they would have captured Paris and killed all the Talaxians as a matter of course.

Then, the plan hinges on the Kazon and Seska (tactical genius Seska) being stupid enough to leave Paris in a room with a working computer (where he learns Jonas’s identity). They could have just as easily tied Paris to a chair and interrogated him as they did Chakotay in “Maneuvers”. The plan hinges on Paris getting on Culluh’s ship, being able to get into its computers and then being able to steal a Kazon shuttle and escape. That, my friends, is about the worst plan imaginable. It shouldn’t have worked — and only did because the creators had the ability to make it work.

Final thoughts

I’m not a Neelix hater like some Trek fans. He’s not a great character, but he has his moments. He’s overly perky, but it was actually nice that he got something to do in this episode that didn’t involve making some gross stew or bantering with Tuvok.

Coming next week …

The Kazon storyline wraps up.

“Death Wish”

Hi, I'm a omniscient, all-power being even if I am a bit maudlin.
Hi, I’m a omniscient, all-power being even if I am a bit maudlin.

The ship accidentally frees an imprisoned Q (Gerrit Graham) and regular Q (John de Lancie) shows up to lock his counterpart back up. It’s learned that New Q wants to end his immortality, as he’s bored and he feels the Q Continuum has lost its way — but Normal Q says a Q suicide would have potentially disastrous effects. Both Qs agree to let Janeway arbitrate the matter and she hears arguments from both sides — including a rather trippy visit to the Continuum in a conceptual way Janeway and Tuvok are able to understand. Janeway eventually grants New Q asylum and Normal Q — moved by New Q’s irrepressible nature and arguments about the listless Continuum — helps him commit suicide. Normal Q leaves Voyager, but not before promising that he will no longer be a company man within the Continuum — and saying that he will likely return to darken Voyager’s doorstep.

This was one of those old-timey "photographs" they made of me and Barclay when we took some shore leave at Dollywood.
This was one of those old-timey “photographs” they made of me and Barclay when we took some shore leave at Dollywood.

Why it’s important

We learn more about the Q in “Death Wish” than any episode outside of “Encounter at Farpoint”. Depicting the Continuum as a crossroads in a desert town was sort of brilliant. It’s the kind of sci-fi trick that was often done in TOS, and only sometimes successfully. Used here, it works wonders. This episode might be Voyager’s best pure sci-fi showing.

Of course, the events here start a civil war within the Continuum, which we’ll see during Q’s next visit to Voyager. A civil war among what might be the most powerful entities in the universe is a huge, huge deal — at least, as a concept.

What doesn’t hold up

The episode has one conceit that deserves some discussion. Would the Continuum actually agree to abide by Janeway’s decision? I suppose you could argue that the Q’s sense of absurdity could be in play, but it seems odd that such powerful beings would put such an important decision in a “limited” life form’s hands.

Why am I letting a human judge us. Last time judging was involved it was me in a kickass hat judging Picard and company.
Why am I letting a human judge us? Last time judging was involved it was me in a kickass hat judging Picard and company.

Final thoughts

This might be my favorite Voyager episode. It gives nods toward continuity (which we’ll discuss) and it also asks a fascinating question: Could an immortal, all-knowing being ever get so bored that it wants to die?

Beyond that, it’s a great callback to a lot of what was established in TNG, with a few references to the Enterprise and even a guest appearance by Jonathan Frakes as Riker during the hearing Janeway oversees. Granted, the move was probably designed to bring in TNG viewers — I remember a preview from back in the day in which Riker seems to have a big role in the episode, and he’s really on screen for about five minutes — but the effort mostly works. It’s justified by Normal Q wanting to show New Q’s impact — presumably because not having him around would have bad effects. New Q, apparently saved a relative of Riker’s during the American Civil War. If he hadn’t, our Riker wouldn’t have existed — and the Federation would have been conquered by the Borg, stated explicitly by Normal Q. If anyone thought I was overstating the lack of love Riker gets for his actions to stop the Borg, he clearly, you know, saved the Federation.

Coming later this week …

Back to the Kazon.