Star Trek: Voyager doesn’t share the good reputation of its predecessors The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, with some fans disappointed that the inherent conflict between Starfleet and Maquis characters was not explored further, others perhaps put off by the really rather dull and occasionally ridiculous second season. However, Voyager was as capable as any other Star Trek series of producing memorable stories and excellent performances, and for those of us for whom it is our favorite branch of the Star Trek franchise (yes, we do exist) it is worth celebrating some of the things it did really well – in this case, the actors and actresses who came to join the show for guest performances.
Note: This list is celebrating guest performers who came in for one, or at most two, guest performances as a specific character (though their character may have made more appearances in other branches of the franchise, or the actor may have appeared as other characters). This is why you shouldn’t expect to see characters like John de Lancie’s Q or Dwight Schultz’s Reg Barclay on the list – although they were guest stars, they recurred several times.
10. Sarah Silverman as Rain Robinson in Future’s End Parts 1 & 2
Sarah Silverman is best known as a comedian, but in Voyager she played the fairly straight role of Rain Robinson, perky astronomer and brief love interest for Tom Paris. It’s a fairly thankless role, mostly requiring Silverman to stand up for herself while utterly confused, but she does it well, standing up to Ed Begley Jr’s maniacal scientist and offering Paris a genuine reason to hesitate as he leaves her behind in the twentieth century.
9. Mark Harelik as Kashyk in Counterpoint
Janeway had a few one-off love interests over the course of the show, plus her ongoing seven-year flirtation with Chakotay and a thoroughly indecent proposal from Q. Kashyk, however, was one of the most interesting, a ruthless Space Nazi Janeway never quite trusts, but very much wants to. Mark Harelik walks a fine line as he makes Kashyk simultaneously charming enough to provide a believable match for the Captain, but slimy enough not to appear entirely trustworthy. A good performance in a nicely put-together episode.
8. Lori Petty as Noss in Gravity
We’ve seen a few variations of the story of an emotional human falling in love with an emotionally unavailable Vulcan since Christine Chapel’s unrequited love for Spock in the early years. For Noss and Tuvok in Gravity, this uncomfortable situation is amplified by their situation, stranded on a hostile planet with only Tom Paris and the Doctor for company, not even sharing a common language.
Lori Petty’s performance is fragile and brittle, but tough at the same time, her high-pitched voice put to excellent use making Noss sound foreign and alien as she struggles to learn English with the universal translators broken. To be alien and relatable at the same time is not easily done, and she does it very well.
7. Henry Woronicz as Quarren in Living Witness
The story in this season four episode is carried by one of Voyager’s most popular characters, the Doctor, and Henry Woronicz as a man whose entire world-view is turned upside down over the course of the story. Woronicz, playing a historian with a serious attitude but also a more romanticising side, gives a performance that’s quiet but intense, helped by nice chemistry with Robert Picardo. An episode like this rests on the abilities of the guest performer, and Woronicz pulls it off perfectly.
6. Lindsey Haun as Belle in Real Life
Real Life is an odd episode in many ways, partly rehashing elements of The Next Generation’s The Offspring, adding a dose of soap opera, and mixing them in with some very odd attitudes on the part of some characters. What does work about it, though, is the Doctor’s relationship with his holographic daughter, Belle, and that couldn’t work without a lively performance from a young Lindsey Haun (later to appear in a rather different role as Hadley in True Blood).
The character has the potential to be rather grating, but Haun brings a humanity to her non-human role that makes the story’s emotional climax work and work surprisingly well.
5. Vaughn Armstrong as Telek R’Mor in Eye Of The Needle
Eye Of The Needle is an early classic, making use of Voyager’s unique situation in a well-structured episode with a gut punch of an ending. That ending couldn’t work without a performance from the guest star that makes Telek both believably cold and Romulan, and simultaneously extremely likeable.
Vaughn Armstrong holds the record for playing the largest number of separate characters across four series in the Star Trek franchise (12), and the reason various producers and casting directors kept asking him back is because he can always be relied upon to give a heartfelt, nuanced performance, inhabiting each different alien, human or cybernetic character in a different way. Of his five roles in Star Trek: Voyager, Telek R’Mor is the most memorable and, along with Lansor/Two of Nine in season six’s Survival Instinct, the most touching.
4. Susan Diol as Denara Pel in Lifesigns and Resolutions
Season two, overall, was not a high point for Voyager, but one of its genuine high points was Lifesigns, also the episode that made the most effective use of the permanently unhealthy Vidiians (though season one’s Faces come close). Much of the episode’s success is down to Susan Diol’s quietly emotive performance as Denara Pel, a woman living with a serious chronic illness who gets the chance, for just a few days, to live without it, and who takes full advantage of that opportunity.
The story is designed primarily to provide character growth for the Doctor, but Diol’s sympathetic performance ensures that it is also a story about the on-going effects of chronic illness on the sufferer’s sense of self, told through her carefully understated but heartfelt reactions to her situation.
3. J. Paul Boehmer as One in Drone
J. Paul Boehmer gave tow equally impressive performances in Voyager, and it’s hard to say which is the more effective between his chillingly authoritarian Nazi officer in season four’s The Killing Game, or his innocent, childlike baby Borg in season five’s Drone. Both are effective, but Drone just pips it, because the Nazi officer, as well done as he is, is something we’ve seen before (owing a little to Ralph Fiennes’ performance in Schindler’s List, and helped by the fact the Boehmer actually looks a bit like Fiennes).
In Drone, however, Boehmer takes a character we’ve already seen two iterations of, the Borg drone learning to be an individual, and adds his own special sense of vulnerability. Comparisons with The Next Generation’s Hugh are inevitable, but Boehmer makes the role his own despite the obvious similarities.
2. Kurtwood Smith as Annorax in Year Of Hell Parts 1 & 2
It would have been easy to overplay the time-altering villain of arguably Voyager’s best two-parter (perhaps its best episodes). Over the course of two episodes, it becomes increasingly clear that Annorax has started to become a little unhinged in his endless quest to repair the damage he did the first time he used his reality-changing device, convinced that Time itself has a grudge against him.
However, former President of the Federation (in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) Kurtwood Smith plays Annorax with a quiet intensity that only slowly allows the extent of his mania to be revealed, making Chakotay’s initial sympathy with him plausible and ensuring that he is a tragic and understandable character, rather than a simple moustache-twirling villain.
1. Gerrit Graham as Q2/Quinn in Death Wish
Some Q episodes can be a bit like marmite, beloved by some, heartily disliked for their occasional silliness or stretched plausibility by others. Some, however, are genuine classics, and this is one of them, thanks in no small part to Gerrit Graham’s whimsical but simultaneously sad performance as a suicidal member of the Q Continuum. An episode that essentially debates the right to die, the underlying moral question is one for which there is no simple resolution, but Graham’s thoughtful performance ensures that the episode as a whole works well, presenting a character the audience can sympathise with regardless of whether or not they agree with his ethical point of view, and offering a neat balance to John de Lancie’s more emotive, extravagant Q.
Honorable mention: both Susannah Thompson and Alice Krige do excellent work as the Borg Queen (Thompson in Dark Frontier and Unimatrix Zero Parts 1 & 2, Krige in Endgame) but while each actress only appears once or twice, the character recurs too often to count for this list. I don’t make the rules. OK, that’s a lie, I do make the rules, but we have to draw a line somewhere!