Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Bold Journey Home Continues In Star Trek: Voyager Season Two!

The Good: Best episode of Star Trek: Voyager is in this season, Decent acting, Character
The Bad: Underuse of good villains, Overuse of Kazons, Lack of internal character conflict
The Basics: As the U.S.S. Voyager wanders home, it is repeatedly attacked in a mildly serialized season with decent acting and some good character moments.

Star Trek: Voyager made two critical mistakes right off the bat and the series was pretty much in decline after the pilot. The first mistake was that the show set up two diametrically opposed groups, the StarFleet crew and the Maquis, forced them to live and work together, but it eliminated the fundamental conflict between them. In effect, when season two begins, this is one crew, a StarFleet crew. And while there are moments that people mention being Maquis or StarFleet, the divisions are inorganic by this point. The second mistake Star Trek: Voyager made was not making a heavily-serialized show. While season two reconciles that with a multi-episode arc threaded through much of the season, it's not the magnitude we could have hoped for.

The U.S.S. Voyager has been lost in the Delta Quadrant, about seventy years away from home, for a year now and as the crew speeds toward home, it is beset by various problems. Most consistent are attacks by the villainous nomads the Kazon. The Kazon are aided by the former spy aboard Voyager, Seska, who captures and tortures her former lover, Chakotay, which sets in motion events leading up to the finale. The Kazon are also aided by a member of the Voyager crew, which forces one of the crew into a precarious situation to expose.

But ultimately, the U.S.S. Voyager is wandering home plagued by lame villains or odd discoveries that never seem to benefit them. So, for example, in this second season, Tom Paris manages to break Warp 10 in a shuttle, though it's never clear how other than the shuttle keeps going faster than is physically possible. But the result leaves the crew unable to incorporate the technology or benefit of such fast travel. Similarly, despite being technologically well-behind the Federation, the Kazon-Nistrum ships that Seska is affiliated with manage to dog the U.S.S. Voyager for an entire season.

So, what works here? Star Trek: Voyager's superlative episode "Resolutions" is in this season. "Resolutions," the penultimate episode of the season is what puts Star Trek: Voyager closest to a perfect episode. Unfortunately, even that fails to achieve perfection by diluting an otherwise strong storyline with a ridiculous monkey appearance. Sigh. Otherwise, "Resolutions" is the reason to buy this boxed set, telling a great story involving Janeway and Chakotay being left behind when the Doctor is unable to cure them of a pesky infection and Tuvok takes Voyager toward home.

It would have worked as a multi-episode arc and it's disappointing that the show was not daring enough to try that.

What works as well are the infrequent visits by the Vidiians. The Vidiians are easily the most consistently terrifying villains in Star Trek. Why? They come, they steal your internal organs, they leave. That's it. No negotiations. And despite the rather obvious Brannon Braga reversal in "Deadlock," the Vidiian episodes are pretty wild and scary. And violent.

So, how does the second season of Star Trek: Voyager find the principles of the show? The main characters include:

Captain Kathryn Janeway - A scientist who is now committed to getting her crew, which now also consists of Maquis, home. In the process, she finds herself forced to rescue friends, stave off attacks and negotiate with the mysterious Q. She is authoritative, in command, and lonely,

Chakotay - The first officer who is still reeling from Seska's betrayal in the prior season. Manipulated by Seska, the first officer puts himself and Voyager is a great deal of danger,

The Doctor - Continuing to grow, the Doctor, while still limited to sickbay, manages to get out to the holodeck. The hologram continues to have the best lines of the series and he's the character to watch,

Tuvok - The captain's confidant and security chief, Tuvok's significance is apparent only late in the season when he attempts to understand a sociopathic Maquis killer and is forced to take command of the U.S.S. Voyager,

B'Elanna Torres - The chief engineer is captured by robots, but otherwise has almost no part in the second season,

Tom Paris - Has an amazing adventure. Despite no longer being the complete rogue he was originally characterized as, Paris explores the galaxy, almost has a relationship, becomes conflicted with his Voyager crew, and ultimately makes a decision that could change everything,

Ensign Kim - Despite an early adventure in the season, Kim is basically along for the ride the second season,

Neelix - In a series of occupational attempts that simply are never followed up on, Neelix continues as cook, continues to love Kes, becomes an investigative reporter and suffers a transporter accident,

and Kes - The young Ocampa continues to grow in mental powers, especially after meeting with the Caretaker's female counterpart.

Kes is a great place to start with where Star Trek: Voyager ultimately goes wrong. Kes is a great character who has almost limitless potential. And the second season begins to peek into what she might become. Their use of Kes is clever, interesting and - in combination with The Doctor - what makes the show worth watching. Kes is given hard decisions to make, like whether or not to have kids when her mating cycle takes over. And ultimately, she will not last.

Part of what makes Kes so much of an asset to the show is actress Jennifer Lein. Lein creates a memorable, vibrant character who is articulate and extroverted. Having met Jennifer Lein, this is quite the talent for acting. Lein creates an individual who is quite different from herself and Kes works and thrives as a result. The second season is very good to Kes.

Kate Mulgrew does quite well with Captain Janeway. She is given some real challenges as far as her range, especially in "Death Wish," where she must balance her character's desire to get home with rather direct morality issues. She plays Janeway as authoritarian and caring and she is excellent as a StarFleet captain.

Robert Picardo as The Doctor steals every scene he is in. Picardo is talented and funny and he brings a spark to Star Trek: Voyager than no one else could. As his character searches for a name, Picardo slowly softens his brusque attitude and the actor clearly knows how to give in degrees, making the slow transformation seem very real.

The second season of Star Trek: Voyager is the penultimate collection of episodes by the original creative team which included Jeri Taylor. It's still Star Trek, even as it wanders. It's one of the last Star Trek: Voyager sets that is possible to enjoy, despite its inconsistencies.

For a more precise understanding of exactly what one is buying in this set, check out my reviews of each episode at the following locations:

The 37's
Non Sequitur
Persistence Of Vision
Cold Fire
Death Wish
The Thaw

Thanks for reading!


For other Star Trek reviews, be sure to check out my Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2012, 2007, 2006 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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