Category Archives: Voyager

Also known as VOY

“Unimatrix Zero”

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“Trust me, we were totally having a Unimatrix Zero fling. You don’t remember but you had a thing for vaguely lumpy foreheads.”

Seven is pulled into a dream world where a small percentage of Borg — including Seven, prior to her escaping the collective — can live as individuals while regenerating. The sort of safe zone is called Unimatrix Zero, and it’s populated by Borg who in real life are scattered across the galaxy (a cool concept, FWIW). Axum (Mark Deakins), the sort of leader within the realm, apparently had a romantic relationship with Seven back in the day, and needs her help now in the real world as the Borg queen (Susanna Thompson) is closing in on the sanctuary. Janeway agrees to help Axum’s group, as they’re in distress and because she hopes that waking the drones in the real world could start a Borg resistance movement (hmmm). Then, things go really off kilter as Janeway, Tuvok and Torres go aboard a Borg ship with the idea of being assimilated (yes, you read that right). While they look like Borg, the Doctor has equipped them with “neural suppressants” or something that keeps their individuality intact, and they’re able to unleash a pathogen developed by Axum (where and how he did this is never explained) that starts waking the drones from Unimatrix Zero in the real world. Eventually, Chakotay is able to rescue the away team with the help of a “rebel” Borg sphere led by a Klingon from Unimatrix Zero. But the safe zone — and Seven’s connection to Axum, who is on the other end of the galaxy — must be sacrificed. Back on board Voyager, Janeway, Torres and Tuvok are (FAR, FAR too quickly) recovering and Seven and Janeway discuss the possibility that the rebel Borg could have a lasting impact on the collective. One guess as to whether it actually does …

Why it’s important

Well, Voyager’s interactions with the Borg in the final four seasons are all pretty important. This episode at least teases the idea that Voyager might be destabilizing the collective with its actions. More on that, of course, in a moment.

As a side note, Paris regains his rank as lieutenant in part one after being reduced to ensign back in the underrated “Thirty Days” in season five. Sadly, this appears to be a way for Paris to be Chakotay’s de facto first officer while Janeway et. al are on the Borg ship posing as drones in part two. It almost feels like the dialog between Paris and Chakotay in part two was being written and one of the creators looked up and said, “Wait — we made Paris an ensign a couple years ago. Better change that!”

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Janeway reflects upon the doctor’s miracle follicle stimulator, and wonders if her skull got bronzed while she was assimilated.

What doesn’t hold up

Well, let’s start with “posing as drones” idea. What absolute and unmitigated stupidity. Janeway, Tuvok and Torres could have easily lost an arm, an eye, a leg, etc. And the fact that the Borg queen isn’t immediately concerned that she can’t hear their thoughts after they’ve been “assimilated” might be the biggest stretch in the history of Voyager — and that, my friends, is quite a statement. As soon as the three were “assimilated,” the queen should have either been able to read their thoughts — which would have allowed her to know their plan and stop it — or she should have realized that the “neural suppressant” was keeping her from having that knowledge and done something about it. You just don’t go undercover on a Borg ship, folks. It should NOT have worked.

Keep in mind that the queen does eventually get through to Tuvok — when the suppressant wears off — but for whatever reason, his knowledge of the plan that she should have accessed doesn’t allow her to stop Janeway and Torres. Of course, the queen DOES get Tuvok’s command codes, and uses them to disable Voyager. Somehow, Chakotay and the gang didn’t have the good sense to change those codes upon the away team’s departure — which seems to have been common procedure in similar situations, dating back to TNG (see “Gambit”).

What nonsense. We’ve not been too kind to Voyager on this site, but it REALLY got into comic book territory in seasons six and seven. Continuity was disregarded, logical stories became harder to come by and Janeway became absolutely reckless. Since the middle of season five she 1) Threatened to kill a Starfleet officer for information and offered to trade another Starfleet ship for Voyager’s safety 2) Stole a Borg warp coil and put the entire crew at risk to save Seven in the process and 3) Allowed herself, Tuvok and Torres to be (essentially) assimilated. And those are just the ridiculous items off the top of my head.

Someone reading this is getting mad and thinking that, in each case, Janeway’s plans worked. And that’s true — because the creators can make them work by disregarding continuity and basic logic. Janeway’s “victories” over the Borg all serve to defang one of Trek’s best enemies. The Borg queen — admittedly, a goofy concept introduced during “Star Trek: First Contact” — becomes the embodiment of this, as she appears more like a mustache-twirling Klingon/Cardassian/Kazon than the center of an absolutely implacable foe.

And, of course, the Borg civil war amounts to absolutely nothing after this episode, as the collective seems just fine and dandy when we see them later in season seven. What garbage.

Shame, creators. Shame. It’s not that Voyager couldn’t be compelling and watchable. It’s just that the creators came across as lazy, unambitious and short-sighted, especially as the series wore on. Hell, even Robert Beltran called them out on this in the final season.

Final thoughts

I think we’ll leave it at that.

Coming later this week …

A (logically flawed) nod toward continuity and a good performance by the always watchable Robert Picardo.

“Life Line”

lifeline_008
This disease has changed Zimmerman’s hair, removed his memory of traveling to DS9, and had profound effects on his personality.

Starfleet, working through the Pathfinder project, establishes regular contact with Voyager every 32 days. The Doctor gets a letter from Barclay telling him his creator, Doctor Lewis Zimmerman (also played by Robert Picardo) is dying of some weird illness. The Doctor convinces Janeway to send him to the Alpha Quadrant to use some of his mad Delta Quadrant skillz to treat Zimmerman. Upon arrival, Zimmerman is an old crank and the Doctor can’t get through to him. Barclay calls on Deanna Troi — was Marina Sirtis really hard up for a paycheck in 2000? — who stops by to help, yet again. After that doesn’t work, the Doctor’s matrix starts failing, forcing Zimmerman to fix him — and then, the Doctor saves Zimmerman. Of course, it was a ploy cooked up by Barclay and Troi, but the Doctor heads back to the Delta Quadrant having formed a sort of bond with his creator.

Why it’s important

The big picture item is that Starfleet and Voyager now have REGULAR contact. That’s a huge deal that will play out throughout the rest of the series. The Doctor/Zimmerman plot, while not bad, is really secondary as far as the tapestry is concerned. Interestingly, this episode was co-written by Picardo.

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She’s just here for the ice cream! Or maybe the paycheck.

What doesn’t hold up

The biggest problem is that Voyager changed the Zimmerman character from the last and only time we actually saw him, on DS9’s “Doctor Bashir, I Presume”, in which Zimmerman travels to DS9 to consider using Bashir as a template for a new EMH and acts an awful lot like Voyager’s doctor. The thing with Bashir doesn’t pan out, but Zimmerman, in the episode, is portrayed as a crank and recluse who is very different than the guy we met on DS9 — and don’t get me going on Zimmerman saying he hasn’t left Jupiter Station (where he lives and works) in more than four years, when he traveled to DS9 about three years earlier. Why, Voyager? Why? You don’t need to be this sloppy. Why not just say “almost two years” instead of “more than four years”?

Bigger picture, this is just classic Voyager — in which the creators THOUGHT they needed to disregard continuity for good drama. Sure, you could argue that making Zimmerman a crank makes him more of a foil for the Doctor. But, really, it just comes across as sitcom fodder. A more complex relationship between the two could have been done with Zimmerman’s stated motivation (EMHs like the Doctor were considered failures) without making him seem like the neighbor in a ’70s comedy. Worse, Robert Picardo (playing double duty) almost pulls it off, but the episode just comes across as too ham-fisted. There’s a throwaway line about how Zimmerman’s condition is affecting his personality — but that’s a real stretch.

Finally, one wonders about the Voyager crew members who had to sacrifice their first letters home in years because of the Doctor’s trip to the Alpha Quadrant. And I guess it was a good thing that no medical emergencies happened in the month between transmissions. Tom Paris, M.D., to the rescue?

Oh, and this is the second of three Voyager episodes that Sirtis shows up on in about a year. It really comes across as the creators throwing her a bone/paycheck.

lifeline_182
“Are you sure that’s the right Doctor Zimmerman?!”

Final thoughts

I did like the scene in which Janeway and Chakotay discuss how to respond to a Starfleet query about casualties the crew has encountered, their overall journey and the Maquis. It was a necessary discussion — one that wasn’t had in “Message in a Bottle” when there really wasn’t time — and one that, of course, is never followed up on. One thing’s clear: Continuity in Voyager got worse as the series dragged on. And that’s saying something.

Coming next week …

Can the Borg dream? And, if they do — can they dream of a civil war that will have no lasting effects? Well, it’s Voyager, so you betcha.

“Pathfinder”

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This is step 13 of the 12-step program to beat holodeck addiction.

Back on Earth, our old buddy Lt. Barclay (Dwight Schultz) is struggling with his life since leaving the Enterprise. He’s working on a big project aimed at establishing contact with Voyager — and he’s also recreating the crew on the holodeck, a throwback to his holodeck issues back when we first met the character in TNG’s “Hollow Pursuits”. Deanna Troi visits him to help, and he tells her about his efforts to defy orders and use an unorthodox approach to make contact. After some drama involving Starfleet and Admiral Owen Paris (Richard Herd) — Tom Paris’ father — Barclay goes against orders with his method and eventually makes brief contact, offering a glimmer of hope to the stranded Voyager crew. He also saves his career in the process.

Why it’s important

As Voyager wound down as a series, contact with the Alpha Quadrant became more commonplace. Of course, the fact that Voyager was still out there was passed on in “Message in a Bottle” two seasons earlier, but this episode provides more hope for Voyager’s safe return. Later in the sixth reason, regular monthly contact will be established.

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Now we know why Tom turned into a lizard in ‘Threshold’ — it runs in his family!

What doesn’t hold up

There’s really only one flaw in this episode’s logic, and it’s that Starfleet would have any idea about Voyager’s location since “Message in a Bottle”. The ship has jumped ahead a few times — 10 years in “Timeless”, 20 years in “Dark Frontier” and smaller jumps in “Night” and “The Voyager Conspiracy” —  so one would expect that Barclay and Starfleet wouldn’t be looking for Voyager where they found the ship.

That said, the only other problem here is that Voyager’s best episodes often involve going outside the normal routine of the ship itself — sometimes by showing Alpha Quadrant happenings or by having episodes that are what-if scenarios (like “Timeless” and “Living Witness”). It’s almost as if the way the creators decided that the frame for the series didn’t work that well (huh) and that they occasionally would have to set up situations that didn’t fit in the normal framework to be more compelling. One wonders why the creators didn’t just pitch that framework (other than adding Seven of Nine to the cast, in season four) and try to do something different in a bigger-picture way.

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“Let’s celebrate our first good episode in a long while!”

Final thoughts

Schultz and Marina Sirtis do a nice job in this episode, and it’s totally understandable and in keeping with the Barclay character that he would relate to the Voyager crew’s loneliness. That he becomes a recurring character over the next season and a half — even playing an important role in the series finale — is significant and also telling. Granted, Worf and O’Brien were directly taken from TNG to DS9, so the practice here wasn’t unprecedented — and it isn’t totally problematic. But it is interesting that with such a wide array of characters and a strong cast (as much as the Janeway character is portrayed poorly, Kate Mulgrew was rarely the problem) the Voyager creators needed to pull from TNG.

Coming later this week …

More from the Alpha Quadrant. More Barclay, more Troi and twice the Robert Picardo.

“Equinox”

Woah, this episode is really crappy.
“Whoa, this episode is really crappy.”

Voyager rescues another Starfleet ship, the Equinox — a small science vessel that is critically damaged after attacks by some supposedly unknown aliens. We later learn that the ship has had a rougher go of it than Voyager after being swept across the galaxy, and eventually resorted to killing some weird aliens from another realm to fuel an enhanced warp drive. After Janeway learns of this, Equinox Captain Ransom (John Savage) steals some equipment from Voyager and escapes with Seven and the Doctor, leaving Voyager open to attacks from the aliens. Voyager repels the attacks (after two no-name crew members kick the bucket, naturally) and Janeway goes crazy to find the Equinox. She nearly kills a captured Equinox crew member in hopes of gaining information, relieves Chakotay of duty after he objects and later promises the aliens that she’ll hand over the Equinox in exchange for stopping the attacks. Eventually, Ransom realizes he’s in the wrong and helps Voyager, despite objections from some of his crew — but he and most of the Equinoxers are killed in the process and the ship itself is destroyed. Voyager resumes course, with a few Equinox crew members now on board and Janeway and Chakotay (sigh) back to business as usual.

Why it’s important

As we’ve discussed elsewhere, Voyager and Starfleet have a pretty bad reputation in the Delta Quadrant. Even though the damage portrayed in this episode wasn’t all Voyager’s fault, some of it was — so we figured it made sense to include. Also, this episode is important in understanding some of Voyager’s key failings.

Despite me performing unethical procedures on you, I imagine we'll continue our friendship next week as if nothing has happened.
“Despite me performing unethical procedures on you, I imagine we’ll continue our friendship next week as if nothing has happened.”

What doesn’t hold up

Pardon my French, but this two-parter is just a shit show — mostly because of what we don’t see after it and because of Janeway’s unhinged actions. Let’s start with what’s wrong in the two-parter itself.

Much of the badness comes in part two, with Janeway just losing her mind. Given that she called out Ransom’s decisions — questioning whether he continued being a human — her decisions to nearly kill an Equinox crew member and offer to trade the Equinox for Voyager’s safety are, frankly, not in keeping with Starfleet or Federation principles and appallingly hypocritical for the main hero of a Star Trek series. A show that was smarter and that had not pissed away its main premise from nearly day one would have done better on these counts (check out DS9’s controversial but smarter “In the Pale Moonlight”). As it is, this — and “Year from Hell”“Deadlock” and the series finale — are the four best examples of Voyager’s main failings.

A smaller issue in this episode happens when the Doctor, after Ransom deletes his ethical subroutines, is cool with conducting a dangerous procedure on Seven to extract some information. The whole thing was FAR too easy, and the Doctor is portrayed as pleased with himself that he’s now unencumbered and can take actions that might kill Seven! Shouldn’t a medical program, even without ethical subroutines, be concerned with doing no harm? This is sort of like how holographic bullets can kill if holodeck safeties are disengaged. Why make the holograms potentially lethal in the first place?

Another smaller point is that Voyager and the Equinox would even have found each other after both were swept into the Delta Quadrant by the Caretaker (as discussed in part one). Given all the times Voyager jumped ahead — and all the times Equinox jumped ahead using the technology in this episode — it’s implausible that the two ships would run into each other. It’s too bad the creators didn’t just have the Equinox get to the Delta Quadrant in a different way with a different starting point.

Then, there’s the whole matter with Janeway and Chakotay. Chakotay plays (effectively) the voice of reason in this episode (which is ironic, given that he was the Starfleet-officer-turned-terrorist when the series began). In a better example of showing a schism between Janeway and Chakotay (in “Scorpion”) the two ultimately worked together to defeat the Borg after a major disagreement — but one that was more tactical than philosophical. Here, there’s no resolution, even though the disagreement between them is FAR more troubling. They simply shrug off the fact that Chakotay was relieved of duty and that Janeway nearly committed crimes. And that’s just ridiculous. Even Ronald D. Moore — who briefly came over from DS9 at this time — is on record as questioning the creators here.

Finally, why don’t we ever see the Equinox crew members who joined Voyager after this episode? Obviously, there’s an easy answer — because the Voyager creators, almost ALWAYS took the easy way out in situations like this. What a waste.

Captain... captain. Are you playing Words with Friends instead of listening to me?!
“Captain? Captain? Are you playing Words with Friends instead of listening to me?!”

Final thoughts

Yeesh. What a mess. The two-parter is somewhat compelling — and part one is much less objectionable — but when you look at Janeway’s actions, the missed opportunities and the complete lack of continuity afterward, it makes you shake your head. Actually, that’s more of how Voyager could be described, overall. Is it time for “Enterprise” yet?

Coming next week …

That guy who played Murdock on the “A-Team” returns to Trek.

“Dark Frontier”

I just watched an old earth film called "Ocean's 11" and now I'm in the mood for a zany heist.
“I just watched an old Earth film called ‘Ocean’s 11’ and now I’m in the mood for a zany heist.”

Janeway gets it into her head to try to steal a transwarp coil from a Borg ship (Bad Idea Jeans, Kathy). She enlists Seven to help with the mission, and asks her to read the diaries (somehow) obtained from her parents’ ship back in “The Raven” as background research or something. As the crew prepares, Seven is contacted by the Borg Queen (Susanna Thompson, apparently replacing the Queen we met in “Star Trek: First Contact”) who tells her that she’ll assimilate Voyager unless Seven comes back to the Borg. During the mission, Seven does just that — despite a puzzled Janeway, who does manage to get the warp coil. Later, the Queen tells Seven that the Borg actually LET Seven leave the collective and join Voyager’s crew (back in “Scorpion”) as a way to get more information about humans in hopes of actually successfully assimilating humanity (uh-huh). Janeway equips the Delta Flyer with the transwarp coil and manages to find Seven and eventually rescues her by convincing her where she really belongs (for like the 100th time) outsmarting the Queen (or something).

I find it helps to picture a species naked when addressing a crowd of them.
“I find it helps to picture a species naked when addressing a crowd of them.”

Why it’s important

We learn a lot more about Seven’s backstory — which is actually a lot of the human/Borg backstory. Her parents, the Hansens, weren’t just zany explorers who ran into the Borg. They were commissioned by the Federation to go LOOK for the Borg. Hmmm.

Meanwhile, Voyager gets access to transwarp technology in this episode — and does get 20 years closer to home before it gives out. So, even though Janeway’s plan is ridiculously dangerous, it does sort of work. Hmmm.

What doesn’t hold up

The Hansen backstory is, simply, infuriating. It’s classic Voyager in that it re-wrote Star Trek history in ways the creators must have (wrongly) thought would increase the drama. Joe Menosky, one of the top people at Voyager back in the day, said (essentially) that continuity should be disregarded when it gets in the way of a good story. That could be one way to look back at Voyager as a series — except that more often than not, the creators didn’t have to disregard continuity to achieve their ultimate goal.

This episode, like so many others, was a situation where the creators could have had their cake and eaten it, too. The Hansens didn’t need to be explorers looking for the Borg. They could have just been unorthodox explorers who happened upon the Borg, which was sort of the implication when Seven was first introduced in “Scorpion” and when her backstory was fleshed out in “The Raven”. That way, the idea that Picard and Co. (and, presumably, the Federation, generally) didn’t know about the Borg back in “Q Who?” could have been preserved. That said, this episode does try to explain how the Hansens got to the Delta Quadrant, which was an open question back in “The Raven”, with a line of dialogue about following a Borg ship into a transwarp conduit.

There’s also the whole idea that the Borg let Seven leave as part of a bigger plan. Assuming the Queen wasn’t just lying to manipulate Seven (possible, I suppose) it seems like a goofy idea. How many times was Voyager almost destroyed since “Scorpion”?

But the biggest thing that blows my mind is that Janeway would attempt to take on the Borg and steal a warp coil, putting her entire crew at risk against an implacable foe. Voyager’s captain has had some pretty questionable decisions over the years, but I wouldn’t have called her “reckless” until this episode. It’s just unbelievable that she would risk having the Voyager “family” assimilated — and that she would then risk the much-coveted warp coil (not to mention her own life, Paris, Tuvok and the Doctor) to save Seven and Seven alone. The idea that Starfleet captains don’t leave their crew behind isn’t a bad one — but when going after one of them puts everyone else in SUCH great risk, you have to question Kathy’s judgment.

There are issues with some of the Borg Queen’s dialog. She says the Borg have tried to assimilate Earth once (actually twice) and that Seven is the first human to leave the collective after being assimilated — and that’s just laughably false. Jean-Luc Picard says “hi.”

Last thing: The Borg Queen, in an effort to convince Seven that she belongs with the Borg, brings out her father, who is still a working drone. While this is a shocking moment, it’s not used to much effect. And wouldn’t Seven have tried to save her father — or been more torn apart by seeing him after she’s saved?

Last, last thing: The Hansen diaries that Janeway has Seven read allegedly came from Seven and Tuvok’s visit to the Hansens’ ship in “The Raven”. But Seven and Tuvok didn’t download anything while in the ship in that episode — and they barely made it out with their lives as it was being destroyed.

Last, last, last thing: On the Borg ship, Seven’s connection to the collective seems like not much of a connection. She actually saves a small group of no-name aliens from being assimilated — a group that seems to be far too down with what’s happening to them, BTW — but the Queen doesn’t figure it out until after it happens. So much for “Our thoughts are one.”

Hello. Daughter Unit.
“Hello, Daughter Unit.”

Final thoughts

All complaints aside, this is an entertaining two-parter — provided you leave some logic at the door. It’s about as cartoonish as Voyager gets, as even the Borg ship looks more colorful and less mechanical. The most poignant moment, though, comes when Seven questions her parents’ ridiculous decision to go after the Borg with a young child in tow. Janeway doesn’t exactly defend them, but she does give them credit for their ingenuity. I suppose they did manage to surreptitiously monitor and study the Borg for a while, but ultimately, they were complete failures and their YOUNG DAUGHTER BECAME A BORG.

Coming later this week …

Another Starfleet ship in the Delta Quadrant? Jigga-what?