Do Over: Star Trek: Voyager
There’s an episode in every Star Trek series that everyone refers to as that episode. Scratch that; there’s an episode in almost every season of every series on TV where a protagonist and antagonist are thrust into a gauntlet of unlikely obstacles wherein their only chance for survival/escape lies in putting aside their differences (be they issues of race, politics, sex, hierarchy, finding out who didn’t replace the finished toilet roll) and working together. This type of episode is an hour-long version of interchange between Major Grant and John McClane in Die Hard 2: Die Harder.
‘Guess I was wrong about you. You’re not such an asshole after all.’
‘Oh you were right, I’m just your kind of asshole.’
… whereupon the two look deeply into each others eyes, sharing a loving gaze and kissing passionately before leaping out before the seemingly insurmountable danger, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid-style before, three minutes later, both parties are back where they started the episode. They’re happy, content and surrounded by friends, and everything is back to normal. Sure they’re now worlds apart from whence they began, but they have a new-found respect for each other, as well as a strange new groin-based itch. They learned. It was a lesson. You’re supposed to learn with them, viewer. This type of episode is insufferable, lazy, boneheaded and condescending. And rather than just one hour, the writers of Star Trek: Voyager peddled this offal for seven long years.
If you don’t know about Star Trek: Voyager, allow me to break it down for you as painlessly as possible: Voyager, a ship that is certifiably less cool than any other ship in the extended Star Trek universe, is chasing a Maquis (think Rebel Alliance, but way less interesting) vessel through the solar system to, in United States military terms, liberate the living shit out of them. A celestial mistake caused by a godlike creature called The Caretaker drags both ships to the other side of the galaxy (the Delta Quadrant), killing roughly half of the people on board each craft. The Maquis crew join forces with those left on Voyager and they try to get home – a journey that normally would take them 70 years at full speed. To do this, they need to learn a little about themselves and each other, put aside their differences and start clobbering the part of your brain that makes you a lovely, non-cynical human being. 7 years later, they (spoiler!) get home (shit spoiler).
Voyager’s biggest faux pas is in its terminally uninteresting characters. We have Captain Kathryn Janeway, a woman so obsessed with breaking the prime directive (the one about not interfering with alien races blahdeblah), it’s reasonable to assume she has it placed on the inside of her personal toilet bowl. Most of Voyager’s problems are a result of our dear Kathryn’s chronically bad decisions, disastrous mishandling of crew affairs and giving command of important duties to outlaws, enemies and metaphysical beings. This amounts to criminally negligent behaviour and the lack of eventual courtmartial/mutiny is nothing beyond baffling. One can only imagine she burned all records of Voyager’s journeys in a manner so thorough it could turn an Anglo-Irish Bank director green with envy. The fact that Janeway is often lauded for being an outstanding feminist icon is insulting to anyone who possesses an X chromosome, let alone women. There are some amazing examples of brilliant female characters in modern media, but Janeway is what would happen if Sandy from Grease was born 400 years in the future and given the keys to a starship for her super sweet 16th. Throughout the seven years, she consistently does the wrong thing, frequently bloody well knowing it’s the wrong thing, leading someone or something to disaster or death, and brushing it off before the episode’s credits roll.
‘Most of Voyager’s problems are a result of our dear Kathryn…’ – me, the previous paragraph. As it happens, the rest of Voyager’s problems are down to socially-awkward penguin-cum-irresponsible intern Ensign Harry Kim, or as I prefer to call him, Hapless Mishap Haphazard Harry and his Misadventures. Harry Kim’s official occupation is Operations Manager, which is tantamount to Jim Hacker’s position as Minister of Administrative Affairs in Yes, Minister. Any flying is done by the ship’s pilot, Tom Paris, who likes fixing vintage cars and having sex with half Human-half Klingons (if only there was one of them on board…). Any weapon-firing or tractor-beaming or shields-upping is done by full-time tactical officer and Vulcan, Lieutenant Commander Tuvok. So essentially Harry does nothing, except explain what’s gone wrong and how he can’t fix it. Harry is Sigourney Weaver’s character in Galaxy Quest, just without the overexposed cleavage. Harry rides and bumbles his way through a particularly gawky, seemingly-protracted puberty, almost ignorant of the constant jeopardy his misreading of operations (you had ONE job, Harry) gets the crew into.
Deep in the heart of the ship we have ‘The Doctor’, an irritable medical hologram who replaces the entire deceased medical staff on board, because giving control of human life to a computer is a great idea – an issue that could have been played on throughout the series, but only really reared its head in season five when he had to make a decision to save one of two patients who had an equal chance of survival. He chose to save (guess who?) ensign Harry Kim, who was off fouling up on one of his many Hapless Mishap Haphazard Harry Misadventures.
Accompanying the above is engineer B’Elanna Torres, former Maquis/now the ship’s chief engineer appointed courtesy of the perennially not-arsed Janeway, who quite likes having sex with Starfleet pilots called Tom Paris (if only there was one of them on board…). Her one (everyone gets one) interesting episode was Prototype, where she is forced to replicate a model of a robot for an eternally-warring race of robots so that they may fight forever. Muscling in on the women-working-with-machines roles is 7 of 9, a former Borg (rescued and integrated into the ship by a certain sadistic Captain…), played by an actress who happened to be having sex with one of the producers of the show at the time. Incredibly, 7 of 9 exhibits less emotion than even Tuvok and spends her entire run on the series either nearly always wearing a onesie that porn directors would consider risqué, or nothing. She ends up having sex with the ship’s deputy Captain, Commander Chakotay – a man of nonspecified native American heritage. Chakotay sports a tattoo that rivals Gorbachev’s birthmark for forehead real estate and was the only character on board that was a threat to breaking the monotony of Voyager – a deeply spiritual man who deserted everything he held dear to go fight for the Maquis, a cause he believed in, only to go back to co-operating with Starfleet officers in a mutual bid to get home – until they cast the guy who played the redneck fuckup cop who ended up grovelling for Chuck Norris’ help at the end of 1983 cinema classic Lone Wolf McQuade. There were also characters called Neelix and Kes in the series. So awful were they, it is genuinely best for everyone if they get these two lines and no more.
Throughout the seven years, Voyager encounters no shortage of aliens borne from recycled ideas, including the Kazon (because Star Trek apparently didn’t have enough warlike races with pointy foreheads and dodgy hair that began with a K and ended with -on), the Hirogen (who are like shit versions of the Predator and dress up as Nazis in one episode, in case we’re confused as to which people on screen are the bad guys), the Borg (the genuinely scary robot-zombies of TNG notoriety that were later reduced to afterthoughts) and Species 8472, (who eat the Borg and are generally bad-tempered towards everyone). Species 8472, the most fearsome of the series’ antagonists, eventually cease hostilities against Voyager after Janeway willingly (treasonously) gives them secret nanoprobe technology, and they go their separate ways, having ‘learned a little bit more about each other’ – official Voyager fan site summary.
Though we approach the end of this crucifixion, it would almost (almost!) be an injustice to finish up without giving a nod to what is possibly the worst episode of Star Trek in television history – ‘Threshold’ features Tom Paris travelling at a theoretically impossible speed, accidentally causing relativity to advance his evolution to a level where he starts turning into a lizard. Said lizard then kidnaps Captain Janeway (presumably because his own bad decisions aren’t quite enough to sustain him) and turns her into a lizard too. They land on a sweaty planet have sweaty lizard sex and she births some children that run off into the sweaty undergrowth and the crew of Voyager find them and land there and they shoot the lizards and manage to devolve them and they all have a laugh and this sentence has gone on way too long and is now just destroying your brain cells and mine. Please note that the plot of the episode is emphatically not oversimplified in the above description. It has to be experienced to be believed, though the same could be said of food poisoning or car theft.
It’s almost as if the creators of Voyager created a series to fill the gap between the winding-up Deep Space 9 and whatever was yet to come that would be more relevant and interesting. To conclude, nothing good happens in Voyager. Nothing irreparable gets broken. No one important dies. No one interesting appears. The ship never gets dirtier. No one has to face the consequences of their actions. But perhaps most importantly of all, Worf never has sex with anyone.