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Star Trek: Voyager, a treatise

According to Netflix's rental activity records, I recieved the first disc of the first season of Star Trek: Voyager on May 11, 2010. Save for seven, every disc I have recieved since then has been part of the series. 295 days. 172 episodes.

And these are my thoughts:

Firstly, I love the premise. The idea of one ship, stranded, all alone in a distant part of the universe is just amazing - which is probably why the producers of Star Trek: Enterprise tried to recreate the feelings and tensions during its third season, particularly with the amazing episode "E2" (3x21). Add in the additional factor of the Maquis, and you get this wonderful potential for all sorts of fun, Trekkie goodness.

That being said, the first three seasons (barring the first, "Caretaker" (1x1&2), and the third finale, "Scorpion, Part 1" (3x26)) are almost enitrely not worth watching.

Oh, yes, there is some of that wonderful Federation-Maquis tension I was talking about, but, for the most part, what little there is is glossed over in one episode, and, almost uniformally, the Federation wins. (I mean, whatever happened to the whole, idk, Maquis ideal? "On Earth there is no poverty, no crime, no war. You look out the window at Starfleet Headquarters and you see paradise. Well, it's easy to be a saint in paradise. But the Maquis do not live in paradise. Out there, in the Demilitarized Zone, all problems have not been solved yet. There are no saints, just people; angry, scared, determined people who are going to do whatever it takes to survive, whether it meets with the Federation approval or not" (DS9 2x21) and, frankly, wasn't the Delta Quadrant just a larger, more lawless version of the DMZ?) Oh, the Maquis come out ahead in "Parallax" (1x3), when B'Lanna is named Chief Engineer, but most the rest the time the Federation is king.

Don't get me wrong. I love the Federation. I love the idea of universal, well, everything throughout the universe. As society progresses, people become more free, and that's exactly what happens in ST. The future is bright. Humanity doesn't destroy itself. We get better... But we're still only human. Selfishness is written into our very genes. Bad things happen. Sometimes goverments make mistakes. (Can anyone say Anschluss? Or, well, appeasment. But still.) Sometimes rebels and terrorists are right. (I'm pretty sure the British definition of colonal soliders during the Revolutionary War was terrorist.) That's not to say all rebellions are right, or that I agree with terrorist actions, but, sometimes, when in the Course of human events... It's the realism the Maquis offer that I love. They were created specifically with Voyager in mind too. But the tension somehow... idk. Is not all it could be.

And then there's Kes. I hate Kes. I dispise Kes, as a charector and a plot device. But more on that later.

My other issue with the early episodes of VOY is almost petty: I watched every Trek growing up, and most of them came out before my tenth birthday. But every episode that ever creeped me out came from Voyager. Take "Emanations" (1x8). Very creepy. "Favourite Son" (3x20) gave me, well, not nightmares, but distinctly bothersome dreams. But neither of those were as ick-worthy as "Threshold" (2x15). I mean, come on, really? I get that this is Star Trek. I get that everyone has to turn into an alien at some point, but, really? Giant worms? Giant worms that procreate? Kids watch these things people. I mean, just thinking about it makes me shudder in disgust. It really has to be seen to believed.

After "Scorpions," though, everything generally gets better. Season four had so many wonderful episodes it was like an entirely new series. there's Alelou's "Revulsion" (4x5) which, even if it didn't turn out the way she's pitched it, is still great. "Year of Hell" (4x8&9), which I actually liked (and, yes, I'll say it now, espeically the Janeway/Chakotay hints about it). The dark, underlying, suicidal storyline of "Mortal Coil" (4x12) is, well, to die for. Add in "Message in a Bottle" (4x14) with its Romulans (*claps wildly*); "Hunters" (4x15), which may very well be my favourite episode of the series; "The Killing Game" (4x18&19), which, despite being another WWII episode, was just grand; "Living Witness" (4x23), which was like a mirror-episode only better; and the rather good "Hope and Fear," (4x26) -- and, well, it's probably VOY's best season. And, granted, there are still some bad ones, but it's mostly all positive. And, surprisingly, has little to do with Seven of Nine, even if we should all be glad she's not the simpering whaif Kes was.

"Night" (5x1) and "Counterpoint" (5x10) both let us see more of the deeper, darker part of Janeway that gives her a sense of human mystery... "Bride of Chaotica!" (5x12) was roll-over-and-die-laughing. "11:59" (5x23) was just beautifully done, and "Equinox, part one" (5x26) was just... wow.

Things start to go south again in season 6 - aside from the fact they've obviously started dying Chakotay's hair rather than letting him age gracefully (and, from all the early season episodes on his spirituality an all that, you'd think he'd be less vain) - starting with "Equinox, part two" (6x1), which had to have been written by someone who only glanced over the first half. The intense feeling of darkness is gone, and many of the charectors start developing, well, sideways. The bad guy is suddenly good... and decent guy suddenly dark... and none of it makes real sense personality wise based off the first. Granted, "One Small Step" (6x8) is rather good, but did VOY really need all that Barkley/Alpha-quadrant stuff "Pathfinder" (6x10) introduced? Or "Fair Haven" (6x11)? That was a particuarly painful episode to watch. Still, "Blink of an Eye" (6x12) almost - almost - made up for it. And several other of the episodes were amusing, sort of shots to the audience... but not something I'd want to watch more than once.... and, well, "Unimatrix Zero" (6x26, 7x1) was just plain stupid.

From season 7, I found "Shattered" (7x10) the best of the lot, for more reason than one. A very good episode. "Repentance" (7x12) and "Prophesy" (713) were also quite good. But most the other episodes.... *shudders* "Human Error" (7x17) was almost worse than some of the early VOYs. And "Renissance Man" (7x22) was just... well, bad....

Still, the last four seasons were the best. Seven of Nine brought new life to the series, a way of exploring humanity not tied to The Doctor, who, while interesting, comes off as being rather 2D after a while. I'd still rather, if Seven had to get together with anyone, it have been The Doctor, because her relationship with Chakotay in "Endgame" (7x23&24) was just strange after his chilly distrust of her for, well, almost every episode up to then.

Chakotay himself evolved from the token Native American of the series, full of spirtuality, to the type of person I'd want as my XO if I ever ran a ship. A strong presense, capable, but with hidden depths. Not your traditional major-general of a solider, but with the sort of wisdom that speaks of experience, not books. And thinks of others first.

Torres becomes more than just the belligerant half-Klingon engineer, even if her relationship with Tom Paris comes rather from left field. Tom is the felon given the chance to repent - who, you rather think, was only ever acting out. Less ST:IX Kirk and more... well, almost spoiled rich kid. Once he doesn't have to worry about his dad anymore, he becomes a decent person. And Kim grows up (eventually) from a green kid into a decent officer bucking at the restraints a ship of Voyager's size places on a young man itching to prove himself.

And Janeway... I recently noticed that she's, well, not my favourite captain. Not by far. But she's the one I'd most like to be like, most like to serve with. Mothering, but not in a mother-hen sort of away. Caring, but not to the point of being unable to make the hard desions. Feels the loss of her crewmen deeply, but not to the point where it incapacitates her (and, even then, it sometimes does - "Night" (5x1) - but even that makes her more human). Willing to do the hard thing, the right thing (destroy The Caretaker's array "Caretaker" (1x1) and the Borg transwarp hub "Endgame" (7x23&24)) even if it hurts her. She's not the cowboy Kirk (or Archer) is, but that's okay. The galaxy doesn't need cowboys by this point in time. She's not the diplomat Picard is, but that's okay too. Diplomacy is good, the Delta Quadrant needs exploration, not long-term alliances. She's more like Sisko, but even then she's.... The best I can say is, she's a good captain. Maybe the best. Not many people could hold a ship to Federation ideals when all alone in a strange part of the universe, or keep them on a 70 year mission (that more than occassionally looses a decade to random, fantastic, but often flawed tecnology) without loosing home.

I even came to the realization that my Mass Effect charecter looked like a (younger) version of Janeway, down to the (more flattering) bun and acts in a very similiar (mosty paragon, by renegade when need be) way. Granted, this ME charector has a touch of Picard to her as well... but, the fact is, I made and played this charector in, oh, late 2007. I don't think I'd watched a VOY episode in at leat 7 years. They're never on TV, and, for the last 3 seasons, I was in Okinawa, away from SyFy for the most part. But, even after about 10 years away, my ME charector was very, very Janeway, and that says something about Janeway herself. She's not perfect. But she's the one you want to be.

I still hate Kes. I still find Nelix infuriating three-quarters of the time. I hate the fact that there are rarely, if ever, any story arcs to the series (beyond the overarching get-back-to-Earth ideal - and, for that matter, why don't they aim for, say, the closest edge of the Federation? Earth's almost in the Beta Quadrant... but oh well). I hate that there's almost no continuity between episodes - there's no fallout from Nelix's suicidal episode, or B'Lanna's self-destructive one, or Janeway's depression one; Janeway's hair varies wildly between episodes for the first few seasons; the darkness of Chakotay's hair and tattoo do the same; even the exact number of crewmen wildly fluxuates. I hate the number of episodes that are largely copies of other series' - "Elogium" (2x4) is a rip-off of all pon farr episodes; "Heroes and Demons" (1x12) is just another holideck episode, and "Pathfinder" (6x10) is a TNG episode, more or less; Q's episodes, while hillarious, are, again, trying to harken back to TNG in a very non-flattering way; and, of course, there are the turn-into-aliens episodes, and the ones with the mysterious illnesses, and, well, the typical Trek episode.

Star Trek: Voyager is still my least favourite series. My love of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's inherant non-serial format and the darkness of The Dominon War episodes is too great to ever be topped. I was practially raised on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and nothing can beat mom's home cooking, so to speak. The original Star Trek is in it's own, very special league, and Star Trek: Enterprise always showed, for me, the most promise and the most interesting dynamics of the entire fandom.

But I never expected any of that to change. If you take VOY for what it is, it is rather enjoyable. It's supposed to be out there, at least compared to the other series. It's not weighed down (or aided) by the history of the other Treks. It's the most sucessfully serial, after TOS, because, for the Delta Quadrant, there's no earlier interactions to worry about - everything Archer and Kirk and Picard did before Janeway doesn't matter, because they're all new speies in the Delta Quadrant. It's pure discovery again - more like TOS, in that manner, than TNG ever really could be. Voyager is what it is what it is. And sometimes it has me crying out, "Pain, phsyical pain!" during the bad parts. But, at other times, it manages to create something unique. Something special, genuine, and true.

Nevertheless, it's an end of an era. The 295 days of Trek are over. Sure, there are the relaunch novels to explore, and fanfiction, but, because of Voyager's very uniqueness, it was never as popular as the others, and, as such, there are less of both to explore.

I never expected to be sad at this, the bitter end, but I am. For me, it was all about getting all seven seasons watched and out of the way so I could say with honestly I've watched every Trek there is. I'm not done with that journey yet - there are still some early DS9s and more than a few TOS I've not seen yet - but I am with this one. So, to close, I quote from Harry Kim in "Endgame," who echoes Jonathan Archer's sentiments before the Coalition of Planets in "Terra Prime," and Kirk's on the Enterprise-A in The Undiscovered Country, and Picard's on the Enterprise-D in Generations, in what might very well be Star Trek's most lasting message:

"I think it's safe to say that no one on this crew has been more obsessed with getting home than I have but, when I think about everything we've been through together, maybe it's not the destination that matters, maybe it's the journey. If that journey takes a little longer so we can do something we all believe in, I can't think of anyplace I'd rather be or any people I'd rather be with."
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