Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pointlessly Continuing Home, With Special Emphasis On Seven Of Nine's Breasts!

The Good: One or two character moments, One or two acting moments, Robert Picardo
The Bad: Most of the stories, Gaffs with characterization, Continued emphasis on Seven of Nine
The Basics: As the Voyager wends its way home, sigh . . . this season tries to rekindle the characters, but fails and tries to tell stories that ultimately make no sense.

Star Trek Voyager's fourth season ended with a ho-hum season finale that almost tops its first season finale for lameness. As a result, coming back for the fifth season of the show, the viewer is immediately inundated with a feeling of being lost. It's at this point in the series that even the most avid viewers have to be wondering "what's the point?!" As the U.S.S. Voyager plods toward home, every decent idea is counteracted by a pointless episodic resolution and the result is one of the weakest seasons of any Star Trek series in the franchise.

The U.S.S. Voyager wanders into what is supposed to be a desolate region of space that will take two years to traverse, but is conveniently rescued from such cinematic stagnation and potential for character growth by a spatial anomaly. Plagued briefly by the lame polluting Malons, the U.S.S. Voyager continues on with episodes focusing witlessly on the Borg, adventures on the holodeck, silly planets and fights and quasi-time travel stories.

Season five of Star Trek: Voyager continues the degradation of the show into the Seven of Nine show, where the experiences and characters of the USS Voyager become secondary to the experiences of the character Seven of Nine. Out of the twenty-six episodes in the fifth season, eight are episodes dominated by a Seven of Nine storyline. By comparison, Captain Janeway gets (liberally) five episodes with Paris and Torres reaping some benefit in increased exposure as the stories include their romance more.

The problem with season five, fundamentally, is that as the ship lists around without direction, so too do the producers. They have no clear idea where the show is going at this point and it's clear from the first episode. One of the producers was brought over from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as it wrapped and he did not last five episodes! That's not a good sign. The direction they choose to go is a terrible one.

As the show floundered like a serpent without a head, the writers and producers went back to the beginning. They took a look at the initial characterizations of the characters and tried to bring them back. So, for example, in "Thirty Days" Tom Paris goes rogue. Sure, he does it for an ethical cause as opposed to blatant self-interest, but he's still going off on his own like the original characterization of him dictated. B'Elanna Torres ends up angry throughout the season a great deal more as well. The problem with this is it's too little, too late. Paris wasn't that same guy anymore, Torres was not that same character anymore. The transformations came too late and feel utterly inorganic.

Here is how the fifth season finds the crew of the U.S.S. Voyager:

Captain Janeway is isolated and moody until she remembers that she's the captain of the starship and she suddenly becomes a leader and then playful in the holodeck. Okay, they've stopped emphasizing her so now they have no idea what to do with her,

Chakotay - The first officer manages to pick up some airtime by infiltrating an alien training facility, experiencing time travel, and boxing,

Seven of Nine - Accidentally creates a futuristic Borg, saves the ship repeatedly and ends up at the center of the Borg as the toy of the Borg Queen,

Tuvok - Paired with Paris for another improbable love story, Tuvok mostly just stands around this season,

B'Elanna Torres - In a relationship with Paris now, Torres finds herself abusing herself, the victim of an alien parasite (which is one of the worst special effects since the original Star Trek) and finally working to control her temper around really annoying aliens,

Tom Paris - Goes rogue, too little, too late. Demoted, he finds himself on cool missions with Tuvok and playing around as a hero on the holodeck,

Harry Kim - Picks up some airtime by telling Janeway to "shove it!" and going off on his own with his new love interest. Of course, he comes back, but because this series is largely episodic, there aren't any consequences. He also shows up from the future and even has a mission with the Doctor,

The Doctor - He's reprogrammed when he makes an ethical decision, he manages to have a child with Seven (of sorts) and he begins to fall in love with Seven of Nine, go figure. The Doctor shows up a lot in the fifth season, but mostly as support to Seven and her scenes,

and Neelix - After keeping Naomi Wildman occupied with a story early in the season, Neelix is relegated to the background for the duration. Is he missed?

The fifth season of Star Trek: Voyager marks the continued downfall of every major Star Trek institution. The season finale involves StarFleet officers who have lost their way and turned into cold-blooded killers, for example. But the coup of death is with the Borg. "Dark Frontier," a two-parter in the middle of the season, which sees the return of the Borg Queen, creates a storyline as preposterous as it is undermining to the previously established Star Trek cannon. Seven's parents, it seems, were out hunting the Borg for years, despite the Borg being vastly further away at that time (see Star Trek: The Next Generation).

But what kills it is the way the producers sacrifice substance for style. The Borg were a menace in their square ships that were so decentralized they could attack from any angle, repair themselves almost instantly and were basically invincible, unaerodynamic and thus menacing. In "Dark Frontier," we see different shaped Borg ships including the preposterous Borg Queen's ship. While Star Trek First Contact saw the beginning of the trend away from the simple menace of the Borg ships, "Dark Frontier" puts the nail firmly in the coffin with its eccentric and pointless reconception of the Borg.

People might like the fifth season of Star Trek: Voyager, certainly those who are not vested in the characters or the larger mythos of the Star Trek franchise will find the episodes enjoyable and interesting. But it's not worth $100 for a show you might like. And for fans of the Star Trek franchise, this is terrible in terms of continuity, character and conception.

For a better idea of exactly what is in this season, check out the reviews of each episode at:
Extreme Risk
In The Flesh
Once Upon A Time
Infinite Regress
Nothing Human
Thirty Days
Latent Image
Bride Of Chaotica!
Dark Frontier, Part 1
Dark Frontier, Part 2
The Disease
Course: Oblivion
The Fight
Think Tank
Someone To Watch Over Me


For other television reviews, be sure to visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

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