This feature contains spoilers.
A lot of people had a lot of problems with Star Trek Voyager, and perhaps in some cases, they had a point. But Voyager could be great as well as terrible, engaging as well as frustrating, and it did everything with a sense of humour and a determination not to take itself too seriously. In Captain Janeway, for all her inability to make up her mind how she felt about the Prime Suggestion, we had the most adventurous captain since Kirk, a captain who goes on away missions and takes sometimes extraordinary risks to achieve her goals. She was surrounded by an interesting and highly likeable ensemble (Neelix notwithstanding) including Star Trek’s best full-blooded Vulcan and the second most popular Doctor-without-a-name in science fiction. Also, Jeri Ryan in a catsuit. And so we take a moment to set aside whatever niggles and frustrations viewers had with Voyager and celebrate some of the things it did really well.
10. Lineage (Season Seven)
B’Elanna Torres is pregnant, and the Doctor performs a minor procedure to genetically alter her unborn daughter to correct a spinal problem. But this gives Torres an idea, and she becomes determined to erase all the Klingon DNA from the foetus and make her completely human, so that the child won’t experience the bullying that she herself did. With a solid science fiction basis in the apparently simple genetic procedure that can both correct serious medical problems and make more cosmetic changes, this episode is a nice exploration of both the ethical dilemma involved and Torres’ personal history and emotional problems. It’s perhaps a shame that the solution boils down to curing her fear of being abandoned by her husband, but still, this is a nice little character study.
Best bit: Most of this episode is firmly Torres’ story, but it takes two to make a baby, and Paris asking Tuvok for advice about fatherhood is both awkward and endearing.
Quotable: “It could be a parasite” (Icheb, on the life-form he’s detected inside Torres)
9. Latent Image (Season Five)
The Doctor discovers that some time previously, his program had broken down because when presented with two patients with an equal chance of survival but only enough time to save one, he chose his friend (Harry Kim). This episode combines a dilemma that could affect any doctor (and could easily cause a breakdown in a human being) with one of the Doctor’s occasional battles for his rights as an artificial life-form (without Seven around to make her feel guilty, Janeway had simply erased the Doctor’s memories, clearly a violation of his personhood) and even a little bit of exploration of a well-known Star Trek phenomenon into the bargain (the Doctor deliberately saved the regular cast member, not the expendable ensign). Plus, it’s an episode about the Doctor, which is always a good thing.
Best bit: The Doctor and Seven are shocked to discover that the unknown enemy tampering with the Doctor’s program is Captain Janeway.
Quotable: “In that book, which is my memory, on the first page of the chapter that is the day when I first met you, appear the words ‘Here begins a new life.'” (The Doctor, reading from La Vita Nuova)
8. The Thaw (Season Three) This extremely creepy episode is almost uncomfortable to watch, but it’s a nice bit of science fiction. A group of aliens have hooked themselves up to a virtual reality machine to escape a natural disaster, and they are supposed to be enjoying an idyllic world created from their thoughts and feelings. However, their worries have manifested themselves in a clown that is the embodiment of Fear, who is now holding them hostage in an attempt to continue his own existence. Pre-dating The Matrix, this is an intriguing exploration of virtual reality, something of a serious counterpoint to Red Dwarf’s Better Than Life.
Best bit: The crew realise just how serious the situation is as the first expendable alien dies.
Quotable: “You know as well as I do that fear only exists for one purpose – to be conquered” (Janeway)
7. Caretaker (Season One)
Voyager’s pilot episode is probably the best Star Trek pilot. It has its flaws, the corny all-American farm illusion produced by the titular Caretaker and the poor-man’s-Klingon Kazon warriors among them. But it shows its ambition in the Star Wars-emulating opening sequence and introduces a colourful cast of characters; plus, for anyone lucky enough to actually see it before any of the rest of the show, there’s some genuine uncertainty concerning who’s going to live or die. Voyager’s promising set-up gets back to the heart of Star Trek – exploring unknown and unpredictable parts of space and exotic planets full of bumpy-headed aliens. A lively and engaging start to the show.
Best bit: Janeway vows to get her crew back to the Alpha Quadrant, no matter how long it takes.
Quotable: “Mr Paris, set a course – for home” (Janeway)
6. Counterpoint (Season Five)
Voyager is helping a group of telepaths, along with their own Vulcan crewmembers, to escape a group of telepath-hating Space Nazis. When their handsome Captain defects to Voyager, he and Janeway bond over a love of Earth’s classical music, but underneath it they’re engaged in a battle of wits that only one can win. Kate Mulgrew’s favourite episode is a great outing for Captain Janeway, exploring both her personal life (Kashyk is by far her most interesting love interest outside of Chakotay) and showing just why she’s the Captain. Her heart may be breaking, but innocent telepaths are safe from Space Nazis while she’s around.
Best bit: Janeway wins a bittersweet victory.
Quotable: “For what it’s worth, you made a tempting offer” (Kashyk to Janeway)
5. Bride of Chaotica! (Season Five)
Voyager becomes trapped in spatial distortions and a group of photonic life-forms mistake Tom Paris’ holodeck homage to 1950s B-movies for reality. Since the aliens refuse to believe that anyone other than the Doctor is real and their weapons are disabling the ship, Captain Janeway is forced to join Paris as a character from the holodeck program and defeat the evil Chaotica or they’ll be stuck forever. You have to ignore the accidental massacre of thousands of the photonic aliens by Chaotica and just go along for the ride in this hilarious homage to cheesy science fiction. No one can defeat the powerful pheromones of Arachnia, Queen of the Spider People!
Best bit: Satan’s Robot is screaming about “Invaders from the fifth dimension!” and Paris whacks him in an attempt to shut him up. The robot mutters sulkily “Invaders!”
Quotable: “Remember – you’re the Queen!” (Paris to Janeway)
4. Message in a Bottle (Season Four)
Voyager hijacks an alien relay station to send a message to the Alpha Quadrant in the form of the Doctor. Unfortunately, he materialises on a brand-new ship that has itself been hi-jacked by Romulans, and he has to team up with a Mark II EMH, defeat the Romulans and make contact with Starfleet before Voyager is driven away from the relay station. The Doctor and Andy Dick’s Mark II’s attempt to interact are hilarious bouts of petty one-up-man-ship and the Romulans present a credible but still defeatable threat and a welcome return to one of Star Trek’s most familiar bad guys. Best of all, it all culminates in Voyager making contact with Starfleet for the first time in four years.
Best bit: The new, fancy ship has conveniently easy-to-use automatic attack patterns. Having managed to activate one, the computer asks the holograms to specify their target, and both exclaim ‘Romulans!’
Quotable: “Stop breathing down my neck!” (Doctor to Mark II)
“My breathing is merely a simulation” (Mark II to Doctor)
“So is my neck, stop it anyway!” (Doctor to Mark II)
“Sixty thousand light years… seems a little closer today” (Janeway)
3. Timeless (Season Five)
An older and greyer Harry Kim and Chakotay (and Chakotay’s random girlfriend) travel to the site where Voyager crash-landed fifteen years before, killing everyone on board. They wander through the bodies of their friends, looting Seven of Nine’s corpse for Borg technology and reactivating the Doctor, all in an attempt to set right what once went wrong and prevent Voyager from a fatal attempt to get home faster. Voyager’s 100th episode is easily Harry Kim’s best and Wang’s bitter, emotionally scarred performance holds together an hour which also features some lovely imagery (champagne flowing among smiling but doomed crewmembers) and excellent special effects work on the dramatic crash. The reset button at the climax feels thoroughly earned, and there’s even a cameo from director LeVar Burton.
Best bit: Geordi LaForge’s cameo, in which he wishes our boys luck even as he tries to kill them, is rather good. But the top moment is probably the light relief that is Seven getting drunk.
Quotable: “Are you with me?” (Janeway to Chakotay)
“Always” (Chakotay to Janeway)
“You owe me one” (Harry Kim, to his younger self)
2. Living Witness (Season Four)
The Doctor is activated in a museum seven hundred years in the future, where Voyager is remembered as a ship of brutal ne’er do-wells who interfered in the planet’s affairs, murdered a prominent political figure, committed genocide and then went on their merry way. The Doctor must set the record straight or be executed, but the truth of what really happened on Voyager is liable to spark race riots on the still-divided planet. This episode delves into what we think we know about the past and how it shapes who we are, while at the same time providing a fantastic spin on the evil counterpart theme. There’s no mirror universe here, just a twisted version of our heroes full of fantastic details like black undershirts and Tuvok having slightly bigger ears. It’s all topped off with an incredibly poignant finale, in which it is revealed that the back-up Doctor (who can only just have been created, since only a few episodes previously his program was impossible to back up) set off for Earth centuries after Voyager, knowing all his friends were dead, but longing for home.
Best bit: Everything set on Evil Voyager is a joy.
Quotable: “These aren’t the people I knew. No one behaved like this – well, aside from Mr Paris” (Doctor).
“Somewhere, halfway across the galaxy I hope, Captain Janeway is spinning in her grave” (Doctor).
1. Year of Hell, Parts 1 and 2 (Season Four)
The amusingly-named Annorax is erasing ships, species and planets from history with a weapon which accidentally caused the death of his wife, trying to push the timeline back into a version in which she survives. Voyager, however, thanks to some fancy shields, is immune to the weapon’s timey-wimey effect – but not to the aggressive Krenim’s other, more traditional, blow-holes-in-your-ship type weapons. And so for twelve long months, they have even less power than usual (even the holodecks are out), hardly any food and apparently no jumpers or jackets, as Janeway is forced to run around in a dirty vest for the entire year. All the non-regular-cast crew abandon ship and Chakotay and Paris are kidnapped, which really starts to drive Janeway over the edge, forcing her to make a fully justified and logical use of the reset button – she rams Voyager into the time ship, killing all of them and destroying the weapon, so none of it ever happened.
Best bit: Right before her suicidal gamble, Janeway says goodbye to a blinded Tuvok. She hugs him… and he hugs her back.
Quotable: “Time’s up!” (Janeway, ramming the time ship).
Bubbling under: Waking Moments, Death Wish, Before and After, Scorpion, The Chute, Gravity, Infinite Regress, The Gift, Body and Soul, The Killing Game
And the worst: Yes, we all know, Threshold (the one where Paris and Janeway turn into lizards, have lizard babies, and then abandon them). Poor Voyager, no one can ever talk about its successes without adding ‘but then there was Threshold. On the other hand, at least Threshold is (unintentionally) funny, unlike the interminable Kazon-based episodes in season 2.
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