Monday, February 25, 2013

The Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek: Voyager!

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The Basics: Star Trek: Voyager may never have had a perfect episode, but these are the ten episodes that were the best the show produced!

As my reviews of Star Trek: Voyager come to an end, I am happy to compile the Best and Worst lists that my readers have, historically, enjoyed. Already, I have compiled the Worst Ten Episodes Of Star Trek: Voyager (that’s here!) and I was somewhat surprised that there were more second season episodes in that list than there were episodes from the fourth season and beyond (which is generally where I feel Star Trek: Voyager and the Star Trek franchise went off course). It is now time for the flipside, the ten best episodes of Star Trek: Voyager.

It is worth noting that Star Trek: Voyager, in my rating system, never had a perfect episode. These episodes were the highest rated using my objective rating system and it is also worth noting that many fan favorite episodes do not appear on this list for a very simple reason: I am not impressed by special effects. Special effects account for only one point out of ten in my rating system, so the primarily special effects-driven episodes that are very popular with many of the fans may not score as high with me because so many of those episodes lack the distinctive or interesting plots, the genuine character development, or remarkable acting one might hope for. Many episodes of Star Trek: Voyager - even some that I emotionally enjoy – did not score that high because the enjoyable aspect was the dazzle and effect aspect, as opposed to anything genuinely, qualitatively good.

I also wanted to note that “Phage” (reviewed here!) and “Faces” (reviewed here!) were near-misses to make this list. For all of my issues with Star Trek: Voyager and the way the series completely undermined the menace of the Borg and the Q, they created a truly frightening and wonderful villain with the Vidiians. The Vidiians were scary and interesting and consistently well-executed. It is a shame that they can never again be Star Trek villains (or at least, not with the same menace, punch, and desperation). For what it is worth, emotionally, I was somewhat surprised that “Distant Origin” (reviewed here!) also got muscled out of the Top 10!

What might be most surprising about this list of the Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek: Voyager is how many of the episodes were first and second season episodes. I attribute this to the fact that, for those looking for a series with substance, Star Trek: Voyager was a great example of the law of diminishing returns. The show had so much potential and it mortgaged it with each passing season. Even so, there were some pleasant surprises for me as I considered the series as a whole. So, without much fanfare, here are the best ten episodes of Star Trek: Voyager!

10. “Human Error” (reviewed here!) – The last great surprise episode of the series, “Human Error” is bound to be a surprise to those who read my many reviews because it is a Seven Of Nine episode. Not only is “Human Error” an unabashed Seven Of Nine episode, it is derivative of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Hollow Pursuits.” And yet, when Seven Of Nine creates a second life inside the holodeck, the writers smartly steer away from the novelty of the holodeck-altered characters and keep the episode focused on Seven Of Nine’s character struggle. The result is a silent quest for deeper emotions from a woman who is struggling with what it might mean to be human again and the episode works amazingly well. It comes at a time when Seven Of Nine can reasonably expected to be coming out of her shell and overcoming her Borg programming and it works incredibly well for that! This is, arguably, Jeri Ryan’s best performance of Seven Of Nine as well,

9. “Equinox” (reviewed here!) – It might have an utterly preposterous premise – that the Caretaker abducted a second StarFleet vessel (it is never made explicit what genetically-different crewmembers the Equinox might have had compared to Voyager and that is problematic) that has been taking a different route home through the Delta Quadrant – but once one accepts that, “Equinox” becomes a very dark exploration of what Voyager could have been. Battered, demoralized, and operating on a skeleton crew, Captain Ransom’s U.S.S. Equinox has not stuck to Federation morals and the results are monstrous. This was the best season finale Star Trek: Voyager produced and the only one that made me truly hunger for the season that followed it,

8. “Ashes To Ashes” (reviewed here!) – Not at all a “token Kim” episode, “Ashes To Ashes” is legitimately wonderful. An alien race that reproduces by genetically reprogramming corpses recovered a Voyager crewmember and she starts recalling her initial identity and catches up to Voyager. This intriguing premise leads to Harry Kim having one of his more successful romantic relationships and one of the few that the viewer can really emotionally invest in. However, being that it is Kim . . . Still a wonderful character episode,

7. “Projections” (reviewed here!) – A very typical Brannon Braga plot finds the Doctor having an identity crisis when he is told that he is actually a flesh and blood human being who is having a mental breakdown on the Jupiter Station. It might not be a deep character study, but Robert Picardo’s performance makes it easy to invest in the “what is real and what is not?” episode,

6. “Lifesigns” (reviewed here!) – The only (primarily) Vidiian episode to make the list, “Lifesigns” is not an action or horror episode, instead, it is a quiet character study that gives the Doctor his first romantic encounter . . . with a brilliant Vidiian doctor who is suffering from advanced stages of the Phage and whom the Doctor must make a holographic body for. One of the few episodes that wrestles with the consequences of prior episodes, “Lifesigns” gives B’Elanna Torres a great secondary character conflict when her genetic material might help the Doctor and Dr. Pel, but her past experiences with the Vidiians leaves her unwilling to donate her tissue. Brilliant and fun,

5. “Mortal Coil” (reviewed here!) – Neelix has a crisis of faith after dying and goes to the brink of utter desolation. Enough said,

4. “Jetrel” (reviewed here!) – The first powerhouse performance by Ethan Philips, “Jetrel” fills in the backstory of Neelix and sets up the most-alluded to single event (outside Voyager’s abduction by the Caretaker) in the series. In this episode, we learn that Neelix’s home world was attacked and the planet’s moon was utterly devastated by a terrible weapon. The episode has a compelling build-up to the revelation of Neelix’s part in the war for his planet and it is balanced by the story of a scientist motivated by his own powerful sense of guilt trying desperately to make up for his wrongs. This is one of James Sloyan’s best supporting performances and a knock-‘em-out-of-the-park performance by Ethan Philips,

3. “Heroes And Demons” (reviewed here!) – The first episode to give the Doctor an away mission of his own, “Heroes And Demons” has the EMH in Beowulf and the episode is funny, clever, and filled with menace. Not simply a holodeck adventure story, the episode realistically explores the psychological consequences for what is essentially an agoraphobic being thrown out into a very big world. On screen, Robert Picardo and Marjorie Monahan (Freya) have great chemistry that makes the romantic and tragic aspects of the episode work wonderfully,

2. “Caretaker” (reviewed here!) – The best of the Star Trek franchise pilots, it is telling that the show started high that its pilot made it to #2! The characters are introduced in interesting and compelling ways, the performances are not as clunky as on the other pilot episodes and the production crews were refined enough to shoot a pilot that did not look like a pilot. “Caretaker” has a Maquis vessel disappearing in a dangerous area of space and Captain Kathryn Janeway conscripting an arrogant pilot with a troubled past to help find it. But, the simple recovery mission starts an epic journey when both ships are abducted by a powerful alien 70,000 light years from the Badlands. “Caretaker” is well-plotted and makes one enthusiastic to start the journey of Voyager, which is exactly what a first episode ought to do,

and finally . . .

. . . against all odds or bets . . .

1. “Resolutions” (reviewed here!) – What many people might have seen as a throwaway bottle episode became its finest episode. When the Doctor is unable to treat Chakotay and Janeway of (of all things!) an insect bite, the two senior officers make the difficult decision to stay behind and Voyager, under the command of Tuvok heads for home. “Resolutions” is a tight character episode, exploring both Janeway’s desperate search for a cure on the planet, contrasted with Chakotay’s easy acceptance of life outside a command structure and Tuvok’s rocky command as Harry Kim makes constant appeals for the new captain to negotiate with the Vidiians for a cure for Janeway. The acting is top-notch, the characters are exceptionally explored and the plot is surprisingly engaging. If only it didn’t waste so much time with the damn monkey . . . this is the must-see episode of the series, but best appreciated by those invested in the characters.

For other “Best Of” lists, please check out my lists of:
The Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek
The Best Ten Episodes Of Star Trek: The Next Generation
The Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
The Top Ten Episodes Of Frasier

For other television reviews, please visit my Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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