Think of a happy place. Think of a happy place…
We took a vote earlier, and you all decided you wanted to see reviews for Star Trek: Voyager next. So, for the following 172 excruciating days, we are going to suffer in in the purgatory known as the second worst Star Trek series ever. It must be my penance for spending a year reviewing The Wild wild West and The X-Files.
If I have not beaten you over the head with the concept yet, I think VOY, as I will henceforth call it for short, is a bad series. It would not have lasted beyond the third season if the fledgling UPN network had not been so desperate for content. Indeed, the network eventually did kill a poorly performing Star Trek series before merging with another network in order to save each other. I have hinted at my distaste for the series before and been met with criticism I am being too harsh. In response, I have built up a case for why I dislike VOY.
First, the writing is very poor. For the most part, when TNG rode off into the sunset, its writing staff split in two. Like the movie Twins, in which all the good genetic material went into Arnold and all the bad went into Danny DeVito, the best writers went over to DS9 while VOY got what was left. It is a wonder, considering how desperately paramount needed VOY to succeed. But it is difficult to argue VOY got gypped in the writing department.
Brannon Braga and Rick Berman are responsible for some decent TNG episodes. Whether they are better when only having to write two episodes a season or have the George Lucas problem that no one is willing to call them on their bad ideas, I cannot say. But when they have to write a dozen episodes a year, it is mediocre material spread way too thin. Jeri Taylor is living vicariously through Janeway, whom she believes is awesome no matter what she does and everyone knows it. Kenneth Biller cares more about touchy feely political correctness, especially the benignly racist kind progressives routinely get away with, than story structure. Lisa Klink is the worst writer in trek history. That is saying a lot when you consider Maurice Hurley was once in charge of TNG. His excuse was he was too busy patting Gates McFadden’s tush to worry about decent scripts. Klink must have been distracted by her five game run on Jeopardy!
I will give some props to Nicholas Corea, Joe Menosky, Nick Sagan, and Ronald D. Moore. They contributed some really good scripts for the series. Corea’s final script before succumbing to cancer is one of my favorite VOY episodes, in fact. But I think it is telling that Moore left the series after a season because breman and Braga kept nixing his input Which bring me to my next point…
Second, VOY never felt like a show dealing with being stranded hopelessly far from home. I relate this to Moore because the ideas he wanted to incorporate, those which Berman and Braga nixed, eventually showed up three years after VOY’s cancellation in the remained Battlestar Galactica. Voyager did occasionally have troubles with supplies and crew members going bonkers with cabin fever, but only when a story demanded it. other times, the show was like touring the Delta Quadrant in a cruise liner. More roughing it that TNG’s Enterprise, but not by much. The crew just never acted like it was seventy-five years from home with a few billion Borg standing in the way. Was not the point of the series to deal with that tension?
Third, the conflict between Starfleet and the Maquis was, save for an episode or so a year, largely forgotten. What was supposed to further complicate matters was half the crew hated the other half. There was supposed to be a conflict from the Starfleet and Maquis people thrown together, but it rarely materialized. After a few episodes, a viewer is hard pressed to recall which crew member was originally loyal to whom. The shameful part is the Maquis were introduced and developed in TNG and DS9 so the audience would already know who they were by the time VOY premiered. As it turns out, TNG and DS9 were the only series to do good stories with the Maquis.
Think about what the Maquis is. The federation signed an unwise peace treaty with the Cardassians to end years of border skirmishes. For whatever reason, the federation abandoned a number of their colonies to the Cardassians in a DMZ. The Cardassians subsequently provoked the unarmed colonies until they had no choice but to create an illegal militia called the maquis in order to fight back. These colonists have not only been abandoned by the federation, but are militarily opposed by Starfleet. You really cannot blame them for hating the federation or taking up arms. They have a good argument. Better than the federation, who are trying to cover up the poor, unworkable peace treaty they agreed to enter. But this is all dropped.
(Trek geek note: Spock and Sarek’s last falling out was over the Cardassian peace treaty Sarek was negotiating. While it is never overtly said, I bet Spock foresaw the problems of redrawing the Cardassian border over part of the federation, but Sarek thought that was logical.
There is a touch of dark humor in the fact the Maquis are eventually wiped out off screen in DS9. It is mentioned only in passing by Sisko the Dominion foot soldiers willed them all. Fitting, considering how dismissive VOY was of them, too. Doubly so since the show was supposed to be largely about them.
Fourth, Janeway is crazy. No, really. She is nuttier than squirrel poop. She makes bad decisions that doom members of her crew. She makes genocidal decisions regarding other aliens, often touting a Federation policy that she may very well contradict in the next episode. But--and this is especially true if Taylor is writing the episode--Janeway is awesome and everybody knows it. It would be laughable if it were not so pitifully earnest. You will be hearing a lot of this from me. Janeway’s mental issues run all the way through the final episode. Naturally, she makes admiral ahead of Picard. Such derangement must be rewarded.
Finally, the show eventually becomes focused almost exclusively on the doctor and Seven. I do not complain too much about the former. Robert Picardo is head and shoulders above the other cast members. Eventually, he was allowed to write his own dialogue because he thought the scripts were awful and no one could much argue with him. But he should not have to do so much heavy lifting. Unfortunately, everyone else is a one trick pony. Janeway is crazy. Chakotay is the progrssive fantasy of a Native American. Took is frustrated. Tom is an immature cad. Harry is closeted gay constantly put upon. Torres has anger issues. Neelix is a jealous, annoying jerk. They pretty much stay this way until the end.
But Seven. Look, I realize she was put on the show for the sex appeal. I will bet there was a giant suction sound when she pulled off that cat suit ever day after filming. I get all that. But you cannot overlook the severe psychological problem a person would have after spending twenty years listening to billions of voices commanding every move she makes. Seven would be a catatonic vegetable after being released from assimilation. There is no way she could be a useful character. I have a difficult time accepting her. I like Jeri Ryan, too, but Seven just does not fly. The powers that be overlooked reality in order to rope fourteen year old virgins into watching the show.
There are other minor issues, but these are the big ones I will be revisiting until the point you are sick of hearing about them. Literally, the same issues arise again and again. If the production staff of VOY ever paid attention to any of the criticism, it is most certainly not evident by what they put on screen. Be warned, folks. You are in for a bumpy ride.