Tag Archives: Captain Janeway

Voyager–Phage/The Cloud

Well I’ll say this for this week’s homework assignment; at least there wasn’t any time travel or time loop hooey to keep things stale. Instead we get a couple of episodes that start off dealing with the issue of limited and quickly depleting resources before spinning off into something else entirely. Through it all we get to know some of our characters a bit better, some gross aliens and meta-commentary about how the Voyager crew just keeps doing it to themselves.

PHAGE

To answer a hanging question I had last week, Neelix does in fact seem to know what he’s talking about…for the most part. This episode finds him directing the Voyager to a lone planetoid rich in dilithium so that they can, in layman’s terms, fill up on gas. Of course nothing is as it seems and when they’re investigating, Neelix’s lungs get stolen. Yup.

The Voyager and Co. are in uncharted waters and as such you would think that they’d be a little more cautious, after all, you never know when something is going to steal your cook’s lungs. Granted if they were able to scope out the organ harvesting uglies there would be no conflict and there in lies an issue that Battlestar Galactica handled so well. Conflict is just as common within as it is from without, if not more so given just how big space is. While Neelix’s missing air-bags did bring us to some conflict on the ship–whether or not saving him only to live forever strapped to a hospital bed, Janeway’s dilemma when it came to capturing the aliens who stole and already used his lungs, etc–it all felt like going through the motions. The stakes weren’t that big. Star Trek, of all things, wouldn’t let a main character die at the hands of two lame aliens four episodes into its run. You never really buy that Neelix might kick the bucket, but we do get some more nice moments between Kes and The Doctor. It’s hard to ignore how much fun the writers had with The Doctor. He and Paris really steal the screen whenever they’re on it.

THE CLOUD

Finally! This is the kind of episode I’ve been waiting for. Opening with a classic “Captains Log” we find Janeway walking the corridors of Voyager while her diary narrates the new issues her predicament raises for a captain. When you and your crew are the only representatives of a few cultures for light years upon light years how does her job description change? How does she balance the role of captain with her new found role of matriarch? The crew doesn’t quite know what to think of her either. As she walks through engineering a frantic B’Elanna apologizes for not knowing about an inspection “Not an inspection, Lieutenant. A Stroll.” Similarly she stops to talk to Paris and Kim about Neelix’s cooking and afterward Kim feels bad about not asking her to sit. “Ensigns don’t ask captains to sit,” Paris tells him. Dopey Kim wants to be a nice guy, but Paris–the very model of a modern Starfleet gentleman?–knows how that shit works. Hence prison.

As Janeway ponders over these questions she runs head first into several characters who are also showing off their “who we are” muscle this week. We get Neelix remodelling Janeway’s private dining room into a galley. Paris and Kim are elbowing up to the felt in a swanky holodeck recreation of a French pool hall. Then there’s Chakotay trying to introduce Janeway to her animal spirit guide, a move that both tries to establish the Captain/Commander relationship that is such a Star Trek staple as well as build on Chakotay’s own character. These are all great character moments that all ultimately get sidelined for most of the episode because that ol’ Star Trek standby–a nebula/gas/sentient cloud–has some omicron do-dads they need for…something… Naturally it all goes wrong and they end up wasting more energy than they collect. In an awesome bit of meta-commentary on how foolish these adventures tend to be, both Neelix and The Doctor, independently of one another, voice their concern over the need to dive head first into so many anomalies. Too bad Kes is the only one who listens to either of them.

The cloud turns out to actually be a living life form–natch–and after they blast their way out of its belly they go to great lengths to fix it. Janeway’s such a bleeding heart. Kirk would have left without even so much as “Oh…sure I’ll call you sometime…”

The episode ends on a scene very reminiscent of the TNG crew’s poker games.

Janeway sets up a hustle (Is this pool or billiards? Hand me that stick) and shows that she not only knows her way around a pool table, but that in the right setting she can take off her captain hat and just be one of the gang.

This episode was a step in the right direction for me. It finally took some time to show how its characters are coping with their new situation. I would have preferred more of that and less space cloud, but I guess I’ll take it.

Closing thoughts:

-Chakotay said they had less than 40 photon torpedoes. I’ll double check the number, but they used one. I WILL keep track of that, because something tells me they’ll use way more than they got.

-B’Elanna tried to kill her spirit animal. Classic B’Elanna!

-I hope we see more of Paris’ holodeck pool hall.

-Oh yeah, the aliens–whose medical tech was WAY more advanced than Voyager’s–that stole Neelix’s lungs were infected with a two millennium old disease that was destroying their people. Feel free to walk around a bit. Nothing bad could possibly happen.

Star Trek Voyager–Because Netflix is Magic

Months ago I heard that Netflix would be streaming every episode of every Star Trek series ever and my first thought was “Cool, I’ll get to finally give Deep Space Nine a proper go!” Now that this wonderful little prophecy has come to fruition, I’m left waiting until October to watch DS9 and have to settle for dumb old Voyager…

Okay, so my opinions about Voyager are under cooked at best. I watched the first couple of seasons religiously when they originally aired because, just like when The Phantom Menace was released I had no choice. While my true gospel was written by Luke, Han and Leia, I was also raised by two faithful Trekkers. The Next Generation was on constantly between new episodes and syndicated re-runs and when DS9 and Voyager each started we naturally worked them into our Sunday night routines. But with both cases we all sort of got bored after a while. A Star Trek without The Enterprise is a different animal (as is a Star Trek with an Enterprise no one ever asked for, but I’ll talk about that when I get around to watching it). DS9 was weird because of it’s non-Starfleet setting and characters, but I’ve been told–and to some extent can see it in what little I remember–was very ambitious and excellent for various reasons that are wholly different from what worked with TNG. With Voyager I think I was just suffering from:

A) Star Trek Fatigue (STF)

B) Feeling the need to choose between the Stars, Wars and Trek (Guess which one I went with…)

The premise is both exciting and frustrating: Take a clean-cut Federation crew and their brand new ship and throw them 75 years away from the closest thing resembling home, plus stick them with a bunch of people who don’t really like them all that much. The danger and narrative potential of that sort of isolation from all that is Star Trek was awesome. No Klingons, Romulans or Vulcans–besides the ones on the Voyager crew–to rehash old stories and no starbases to patch up and refuel a ship with limited resources.  Of course that’s a big promise to make, and indeed probably the reason why I eventually cut Voyager out of my TV diet. The status quo never changed. The crew, and the ship, seemed to be doing fine each week. Where was the hardship of wandering an unknown part of the galaxy?

As time went on things may have gotten tough for the Voyager crew, but in the first two season I watched it never seemed to be an issue. My knowledge of Voyager is as the weirder of the two non-Enterprise series. I don’t think I even stuck around long enough to see a 7 of 9 episode. I only knew her as the hot new character that wound up on lots of magazine covers.

The Borg and Sex? Why not.

So while I wait eagerly for DS9 I think I’ll chip away at Voyager, even if it doesn’t deliver on its premise–and if you ask former Star Trek writer/producer and Battlestar Galactica show-runner Ronald Moore it doesn’t.And so, season 1, episode 1: Caretaker.

The episode starts with a Star Wars-esque text scroll that quickly gets you the information you need. The Maquis are a group of separatists formed by colonists and Starfleet defectors after a treaty is signed between the Federation and the Cardassians. Me meet a small Maquis crew as they evade a Cardassian warship into a Plasma storm, only to be swept up by an energy wave.

Cut to Star Trek’s first female captain–as a series lead, there had been other high ranking ladies–Katheryn Janeway as she recruits former Starfleet officer/captured Maquis prisoner Tom Paris. As a crack pilot with first-hand knowledge of the Maquis, Paris is a prime candidate for a rescue mission to retrieve the lost Maquis ship and Starfleet’s undercover agent/Voyager’s security officer, a Vulcan named Tuvok. Paris agrees in exchange for his release and essentially takes on the emotional core of the episode. Paris is a fuck up. His father, a Starfleet admiral, is disappointed that he was kicked out of the fleet. The Maquis see him as a mercenary with no loyalties to anyone or anything besides a paycheck. He doesn’t even seem to like himself very much, but when he strikes up a friend ship rookie Harry Kim he begins to show he’s not as heartless as everyone figures him to be.

Paris, a cocky space jockey in the Han Solo mold is what’s wrong with this episode. As a character he works well and stands out among the Star Trek mainstays–Tuvok standing in for Spock/Data as the token voice of logic and eye brow raising, B’Elanna in for Worf as the rage-prone loner, etc.. The problem is making the episode so much about him trying to prove that he’s not a dick. We’re meeting a new crew (two, sort of) for the first time and no one really gets of a chance to introduce themselves. Janeway has a couple of nice moments–a video call with her fiance about watching her dog, a moment of guilt over not having enough time for Kim’s mother to send some of his personal effects–but for the most parts gets stuck doing generic captain stuff and dealing with the titular Caretaker, an aging entity who brought both the Maquis and the Voyager to teh Delta Quadrant to find an heir. The episode plays like a getting the band together story but doesn’t focus of the two people it should, namely Janeway and the Mauquis captain-turned-Voyager first officer Chakotay.

The first episode of TNG, for example, quickly hit on all of the principle characters and their quirks and the new ship but the meat of it was all about Picard stating clearly who he was and beginning to set the tone, by was of his trial on humanity’s behalf to Q, for what kind of show would revolve around him and his crew. The biggest challenge TNG had when it started was to prove it could live beyond the shadow of Kirk, Spock and Bones. DS9 had to prove it could be different enough from TOS and TNG to warrant existing on its own. When Voyager started there was a lot to be said for having a woman as captain, and in a boys club like science fiction, the series would have benefited from an episode built more around Janeway showing her crew and their uneasy Maquis allies just what she was made of.

The stakes were also somewhat lacking. While Kim and B’Elanna wrestled with the chance of dying from a cosmic STD (more or less) the Voyager crew pent little time worrying about how they were going to get home. True there was the initial thought that once they recovered their kidnapped crew members they could just get the Caretaker to send them home. In one of her few defining moments Janeway allows the Caretaker to die before sending them home, arguing that she wasn’t about to sacrifice the race of people he had been protecting in order to accommodate her and her crew’s convenience. This action comes a little too late in the two-part premiere to contradict what I said earlier, I still think Janeway wasn’t given as much as she should have been and the episode ends with a “buckle down and work hard and we’ll figure this out” speech. Compare that with, say, Adama’s grim yet barely-motivating speeches before taking the Galactica crew to hell and back and it feels more than a little bubble gum.

The other element that felt a bit rushed was the seemingly instant, conflict free assimilation–a scary word in the Trek universe–of the Marquis into the Voyager crew. One minute B’Elanna is calling Kim “Starfleet” like it’s a racial slur and them, in teh episode’s last scene, the Maquis are all wearing Starfleet uniforms. True they don’t have their own ship and Chakotay, as a means to appease the rebels, was made Janeway’s second in command, but it just seemed hard to accept that they’d be so willing to fall in line with something they were willing to fight against back home. Plus, you know, the fact that they are so far away from home make it seem all the more foolish. Why bother? When Starfleet stationed people at Deep Space Nine they didn’t draft everyone who was already there or change the dress code. As an asthetic and just a simple means of telling which faceless crew people wandering the Voyager halls belonged to which faction, why not keep the Starfleeters Starfleet and the Maquis looking like the rough and tumble bunch they were before hand?

So this all makes it sound like I hated the first episode of Voyager and will force myself to grind through the remaining 170+ episodes. Not true. I see the potential in Voyager and if anything knowing that it doesn’t necessarily live up to ALL of that potential–one episode in and the ship is trashed but then looks brand new by the end–should allow me to appreciate it for what it is: a noble attempt to take a starfleet crew, and its audience, out of familiar, comfortable waters and boldly go where no Star Trek series has gone before.

Closing Thoughts:

-I remember thinking Neelix was awesome and I’m glad that I still enjoyed his shenanigans. He’s the goofy alien sidekick Jar Jar Binks only wishes he could have been.

-The emergency holographic Doctor is also a really neat character who works almost as the anti-Data–an artificial life form who seems more irritated by organic sentient life than intrigued by it.

-Expect lots of Battlestar Galactica comparisons, especially when/if I make it to 7 of 9.