Star Trek Voyager Season 6
Dragon's Teeth(Star Trek - Voyager episode production code 225)
story by Michael Taylor
teleplay by Michael Taylor and Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky
This story built itself on an interesting premise, but it's a pity it was so badly scripted. I actually enjoyed most of the first four acts enormously, where the bulk of the time was spent exploring a lost civilization and its neighbours (helped by a lot of cool visuals), while the nature of everyone's history and character received some question. There is good use of plenty of extremely short scenes giving tiny moments of perspective dotted throughout. The story's pre-title hook, though not great, did seem to pay off well enough as Voyager found the planet.
Sadly, the concluding act was all about technical struggles, while getting it horribly wrong. Beaming through shields? If you can do that, I don't know what constitutes true jeopardy anymore, and I'm detached from following technicalities. Meanwhile, drama and social ramifications get short-changed. Though there were some minor flaws in the first four acts, it wasn't until the last act magnified them and added the new technical ones that the episode truly lost favour with me.
Besides, the "lessons" from today's drama were already encoded into Starfleet's Prime Directive. If Janeway and crew had followed that, they wouldn't have had to learn all this old stuff the hard way.... again. Did we need to go through the motions? Again, it felt more like the episode was needed to fill another production slot, and had no true philosophical inspiration. The concluding act in particular felt like it was written in someone's sleep. Can you picture it on the page, the way Brannon Braga's audio commentaries revealed many scripts started out? The dialogue would be: "I might be able to tech the tech, and then we could tech the tech!" And then the drama writers hand it to someone who actually has a copy of a Star Trek technical manual to fill in some explanation.
What a shame, since earlier portions had actually engaged my interest.
Pathfinder(Star Trek - Voyager episode production code 230)
story by David Zabel
teleplay by David Zabel & Kenneth Biller
You know you're entering the home stretch of Voyager's run when you get to this episode that introduces Lt. Reginald Barclay's real involvement with the ship (in other words, season two's "Projections" doesn't count). This is actually one of the best episodes of the season, with extra characters familiar to fans of The Next Generation, a plot that works fairly tightly, and a good drama. It's easy to get invested in these people and everything that's going on, and it pays off with one of the few examples of real progress on Voyager's return. I love this one - essential viewing for those who only want to look at the highlights of Voyager.
I do have one bone to pick though. It seems that this whole communications strategy depends on knowing where Voyager is, so that Starfleet knows where to either beam its message or where to materialize the other end of the wormhole they create. In that sense, they're way off. Knowing Voyager's position from "Message in a Bottle", they estimate an average cruising speed of Warp 6.x, and think the ship is now something like 55000 light years away (Barclay rounds this up to 60000 light years in his speech). Well, that includes the boost Kes gave them, and assuming that Barclay is rounding his numbers instead of being forgetful, an extra 5000 LY from 5 years of cruising at speed, but it's still way off. Also take off 10000 LY for "Timeless", 15000 for "Dark Frontier", and another 3000 for "The Voyager Conspiracy". It's also unclear exactly how far and in which direction they skipped during the events of the season 5 opener "Night" - possibly up to another 2500 light years. So now, they're actually only 27000-25000 light years from Earth at this point.... at least twice as close as Starfleet thinks. I hope there's some technobabble around somewhere to pull this together, because the drama is so good, we should have the technicalities accommodate it.
Perhaps Voyager is now right about in the same place where Barclay pulled the Enterprise D in "The Nth Degree", close to galactic center. If Barclay could just have some remembrance of how he pulled that off, perhaps he could get the crew home.... or conversely, perhaps he can contact Kay E. Kuter's character again, and get that guy to help. I'm going to believe Kuter's character is somehow helping to pull these messages together, since it's conceivable that he's still somehow linked with Barclay, and Barclay is suitably obsessed to charge his good thoughts with large emotions.
I'll be giving this one two thumbs way up. Nice!
Blink of an Eye(Star Trek - Voyager episode production code 233)
story by Michael Taylor
teleplay by Joe Menosky
It's quite obvious that the main premise of this story was inspired by the TOS third season episode "Wink of an Eye". That said, I think Voyager's version here is both more plausible and finds better drama to sustain the hour than watching Kirk woo the alien of the week and sympathize with her attempts to repopulate her planet.
That said, this one is still a bit hit and miss with what it treats the viewer to, scene after scene. Quite often, we're on the planet watching unknown natives with whom our regular characters will not interact. Then, when the Doctor beams down and spends three years with these people, the camera neglects to follow him and show any of his interaction; we just hear him tell stories about it afterwards. Man, these are REALLY weird choices, and I can't say that they were good ones.
The ideas are interesting and potent enough that they probably could have made this into three episodes, with the middle one devoted to the Doctor's excursion on the planet below. Then again, the next story "Virtuoso" sort of delivers what we might want from such a setup.
Though the drama is still a bit unfocused, I like this one quite a bit anyway. It's notable for guest stars such as Daniel Dae Kim before he became a regular on Lost, as well as (to my utter surprise and delight), Olaf Pooley, who I only previously knew as the mad scientist Professor Stahlmann in the classic Doctor Who story "Inferno", often regarded as one of that show's best adventures.
Memorial(Star Trek - Voyager episode production code 236)
story by Brannon Braga
teleplay by Robin Burger
Personally, I find this episode to be full of rubbish. Basically, it's another example of the unfortunately all too common assumption that the best way to stop some kind of unspeakable tragic crime from happening again is to design ways to re-live it all over again, and perpetuate the story of it with as much emotion as possible. I just have a question: Has this method of doing things ever actually worked? In my experience, rehearsing and rehashing things over and over in your head makes the actual thing more likely to happen again in the future. And the best way to make sure that thing never happens again is to replace the memory with a new, better, more empowering pattern, to the point where you can't actually recall the old one. We had this same mistake back in the season three episode "Remember", and if anything, this episode is now worse.
So, with the core purpose of the episode in disgrace, the rest of it falls apart fairly completely. The "battle" scenes fail to engage, largely because we have no idea who is who, or what our familiar characters are fighting for. And the more we learn, the more it appears that the fighting is pointless, and that our characters are in the wrong. The audience isn't given good reason to make emotional investment in the situation. And the characters affected by this obelisk are all worse off for it. It's not as if any of them were about to accidentally repeat this tragedy before, but now they're so unhinged who knows what they'll do, as evidenced by Neelix's behaviour.
The one good section of this tale is the crew's discovery of the obelisk, which sees many of the regulars on location finding a nice sized prop. It's totally weird though that the entire upper command chain of the ship all beams down on the same away mission. Whatever.
The arguments for putting this thing out of commission have a lot of elements in them that hit home. If only that side of the argument could have won the day. Instead, Janeway chooses the perpetuation of silliness, which probably violates the Prime Directive on an occasion where it would have been the wiser choice. As was the case in the TNG first season episode "Symbiosis", the negative pattern is not sustainable long-term, and will eventually run out of power and get rid of itself in time, should our characters do nothing. Instead, they commit the "enabling" sin, nurturing the negativity to continue for at least one more round.
Me, if I'd have been in Janeway's position, I'd have shut down the hallucination mechanism, while leaving the rest of the thing intact. I don't think this thing has any business forcing well-adjusted people to relive such crap. (Back in "Ex Post Facto" in season one, this kind of torture was deemed a suitable punishment for the crime. In "Memorial", the re-living is forced on random innocents. How is there any nobility in that?)
Whatever experience or opinions we, the audience, bring with us to the episode to help us decide on its merits, Neelix's behaviour becomes the one concrete bit of proof that the memorial mechanism is having the exact opposite effect to its supposed intention, causing the tragic event to occur again instead of making sure it can't happen. Neelix is the nail in the coffin for this episode's fortunes. And I'm totally distanced from the regular characters and the writers for not being able to better think through the philosophical dilemmas that they pose.
For sure, this one is going to end up at the bottom of the season's rankings, because it really had very little in it that was either helpful, enlightened, or entertaining.
Muse(Star Trek - Voyager episode production code 244)
written by Joe Menosky
There is quite a blatant Prime Directive violation in this story. Initially, it is a bit of an accident, fuelled by one member of a pre-warp civilization taking the initiative and inspiration before any of our Starfleet characters realize what's going on. But B'Elanna gradually digs herself deeper and deeper into the situation, until near the end she gets a clear choice on the matter and jumps into involvement with both feet.
Though this doesn't suit standard protocol, this is a case where the characters are making the choices I'd like to see them make, all in a good cause. Here, I'll throw my support behind the episode, and challenge the Prime Directive to grow if it has any problem with that.
In many ways, this is almost for the Trek production crew what "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy" was for Doctor Who: an opportunity for them to vent many of their beliefs about the behind-the-scenes challenges, via the show that their characters are putting on in the story. There is much we could read into the various discussions of how narratives should be put together, and what the audience want to see or will appreciate or will pay for.
One discussion that I thought was dangerous was when Menosky had one of his characters draw attention to the fact that stories should be "true", rather than contrived by plot mechanics like "the secret", "the discovery", and "the reversal". Dangerous because it tempts the audience to look at "The Muse" to see if it's being true or falling back on plot contrivances, and the list of all-too-common contrivances begins to add up quick. We've got the standard shuttle crash, leading to one regular crewmember interacting with the local guest cast, while the rest of the regulars barely have anything to do back on the ship, plus the latest fad of examining how locals view Voyager as it passes through their territory, which has been done quite a lot since season three scored a hit with "Distant Origin" and season four followed up with "Living Witness".
And for my money, it doesn't seem true that Voyager's crew wouldn't be all over this shuttle crash right away and able to solve it. Paris shouldn't need to go ballistic. Tuvok staying up all night does nothing to aid the situation and is highly illogical.
So, while there are a lot of things about this story that I like, it does feel like tired fare.... and a bit too tired to rank well. Really, having one regular character get lost and unable to return to their customary starting position amongst their friends until the end of the episode has been SOOOO overdone on television since television began, it sends a subliminal signal to the audience to wait until the "hour" is over, and maybe something new will happen NEXT episode. In other words, it's the basic prisoner dynamic, or in this case, an environmental version thereof. Boredom city. Not that this episode is boring, but it has to fight hard against that initial prejudice the whole time, when that external plot dynamic grating at ye olde Prime Directive really is just a contrivance to get at the things the writer really wants to say.
Fury(Star Trek - Voyager episode production code 241)
story by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
teleplay by Bryan Fuller & Michael Taylor
As a fan of the original Voyager cast and their dynamics, I was really looking forward to Jennifer Lien's return as Kes in this episode. Sadly, I was very disappointed with the schlock re-run muddle of tired old ideas that the show spent most of its screen time scraping through.
The central emotional idea has some merit, in exploring a variant of parental-blame syndrome where a person goes on something advertised as spiritual/mental enlightenment, which devolves into too much self-analysis and the false conclusion that one's parents / guardians / or other environmental influences deserve most or all of the blame. Obviously, Kes's exploration of her new psychic abilities, which prove to be very powerful in this episode, hasn't got her to take the 4th density principle of self-responsibility to heart yet.
Really, only one image of this episode had stayed with me from my one viewing 11 years prior to seeing it again now: the image of older Kes angrily stalking the corridor and causing it to explode all around her, followed by the vague memory that the rest of the crew somehow managed to diffuse this "fury" and bring it to reconciliation by the end of the hour.
Of course, the departure of Kes from the series, in story terms, was the character's own decision. The whole blaming anger portion seems far more appropriate for the behind-the-scenes situation, where the writer-producers had fired Lien. Instinctively, it feels more like an imagining of Lien's revenge rather than Kes's.
Where the episode falls down so badly is that it doesn't go for a realistic or "true" model of how Kes would respond to this syndrome in a way that might satisfy the audience, primarily interacting with today's Voyager crew in realistic conversation that probes their relationships. Instead the writers fall back on a host of tired contrivances that threaten to destroy the audience's emotional investment at every turn. Did we really need another poorly-thought-through time travel loop? Is Kes so deranged that she'd actively seek out Vidians to sacrifice the crew to? The Vidians were one of this show's GROSSEST! mistakes. Do we really need to confine yet another rare appearance of Ltn. Carey to the past? And confine Samantha Wildman to the past with him? We want to know what these characters are doing in the present!
The time travel aspects really irk me. Yet again, Brannon Braga and crew don't seem able to comprehend all possible histories co-existing on various branching timelines, and add this misconception to the number of metaphysical things that Kes is mistaken about in this story when she declares her intention to "change" history. What does she expect will happen to her present self if she succeeds in getting her past self home? Does she think she'll wink out of existence? Does she expect to magically find herself on Ocampa surrounded by family and friends that she's never left? I postulate that she'd find herself still the angry loner, watching her double live out that new life, while she herself would not be welcome to participate in it, rejected by her double and family in part because her younger self knows that older Kes executed all younger Kes's friends aboard that ship and thrust a choice upon her that she didn't want.
As for what the writers spawn from this episode, seen through my temporal model, we basically abandon the universe that contains what we believe are "our" Voyager characters after our B'Elanna is killed by Kes, never knowing what else happens to this sad crew. "Our" angry Kes then goes back to a new universe with doubles of our crew, and gets herself killed. The episode then leaves us in this new "parallel" universe for the rest of the show, and for the rest of the Voyager series, as we follow another crew working to save their Kes from self-destructing. Just from an external structure point of view, this feels like a blatant cheat that distances us from staying invested in our characters. Death is meaningless for them. Time-travel reset-buttons are too convenient. The writers don't think them through very well; heaven help the audience if smart viewers start to.
From the internal point of view of character motivation, it's not ringing true either. We basically have two separate lives of Kes shown in this episode. The one we follow back in time for the episode experiences some really nice moments of getting to relive the good parts of her past, feeling connected to her friends again, and Jennifer Lien gives a really engaging performance of showing how these things are starting to affect her and dissolve her "fury". All great stuff. But rendered pointless by the idiotic time travel reset-button device, when the narrative switches over to her double who makes a recording for a new future self.
The end of the show begins with a re-run of the beginning, another common mistake. I find it hard to believe that Kes's double, now having made this recording to prevent this whole sequence of events, would still make all the same choices to lead straight back to this very same sequence of events. Then, being in this new position, we have to put up with the idea that this one recording of a speech from her past self is going to be more effective at convincing the older Kes to reconcile her fury than her double's experiences of reliving the older relationships and seeing those relationships threatened by Vidians. It seems to me more like the time-traveling Kes should have reconciled her fury, while the one who is prevented from time-traveling would be more likely to keep hers. Ideally, we should have followed just one version of Kes in this story, where the reliving of her Voyager relationships actually contributed to the reconciliation of her issues. Foolish time-travel ideas only got in the way of this story, and were nothing new in terms of advancing Trek's take on such matters.
I'd have much preferred a story that stayed in Voyager's present time, one that had a completely different problem for Kes and the crew to tackle. Also, notice that we don't find out anything of what Kes has actually been up to for the past three years, which could have been very interesting, and could have been the source of the main external plot for the story.
In the end, it's the little bits and snippets of gold that I will take away fondly from this episode. Neelix has a wonderful scene making the furious Kes remember how to smile, and though the final scene wasn't motivated as well as I'd have liked, it still does finally pay off and become the overriding statement of the triumph of Kes's arc for this story.
And so, Kes's journey on this series ends on a somewhat disappointing, lukewarm note. I think I prefer the place where season four's "The Gift" had left the character, in a place full of hope and promise for a glorious future. A re-visit at this time is a very welcome idea, but the story they gave us was far too much of a disappointment in that regard.
Voyager Season Six Rankings:
These Star Trek Voyager Season Six stories are available on DVD.*
*Only part 2 of "Equinox" and only part 1 of "Unimatrix Zero" are included in the season 6 set.
...Part 1 of "Equinox" can be found in the season 5 set.
...Part 2 of "Unimatrix Zero" can be found on the season 7 set.
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Article written by Martin Izsak. Comments on this article are welcome. You may contact the author from this page: