Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: seventh season overview

Very belatedly posting this, but I never put a link to this post back when I did it in late October: the seventh-season overview of Star Trek: Voyager, which was also a general look back on the series after rewatching it throughout 2020 and 2021.

An excerpt:

While I appreciate that Kenneth Biller tried very hard to address some things that had gone unaddressed, they half-assed it to such a degree that you kind of wish they hadn’t bothered. Plus there was a certain level of not thinking things through that was maddening. Like addressing the Maquis-Starfleet divide in “Repression,” but doing it in a totally absurd way that defies credulity and makes absolutely nothing like sense. Like finally acknowledging the number of casualties among the crew over the past seven years in “Repentance” and “Renaissance Man,” but not actually addressing it in any kind of logical, emotional, or interesting manner. Like continuing to not promote Kim beyond the rank of ensign and repeatedly drawing attention to it and trying to explain it away even though that explanation is inconsistent with both Tuvok and Paris being promoted at various points.

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Endgame”

Not the Avengers movie, not the Highlander movie, but instead the last episode of Voyager: time travel shenanigans, Borg, alternate futures, babies being born, and lots of questionable decisions. The Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch plays the “Endgame.”

An excerpt:

Even if you ignore the very un-Trek-like message of this misbegotten finale, it’s still a big ol’ mess. Bringing the Borg back again was probably as inevitable to the writing staff as bringing back Q was for TNG’s “All Good Things…” But all having the Borg here does is remind us how ineffectual the Borg have become as bad guys, starting very early on when Voyager flies within ten meters of a Borg Cube and the Queen just lets them go for no compellingly good reason. Once again, the Queen is a mustache-twirling villain, this time actively disobeying the Evil Overlord Rules as Admiral Janeway is able to run rings around her in a manner that is totally unconvincing. (“I can beat you because I’m from the future” is extremely lame when we’re talking about the Borg.)

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Renaissance Man”

For its penultimate episode, Voyager decided to do one last spotlight on the EMH, as we get disguises, subterfuge, acrobatics, the Emergency Command Hologram, multiple EMHs on the holodeck, and the return of the Potato People! The Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch meets a “Renaissance Man.”

An excerpt:

We’ve only got one episode left, and Robert Picardo is pretty much the breakout star of the series, so it seems fitting that he gets one final vehicle. He gets to sing opera, he gets to be the ECH one more time, he gets to histrionically confess his sins, and he gets to be repentant, yet still improve his relationship with Janeway. The rivalry between him and Paris gets two final acknowledgments, the first with the EMH being forced to kiss him while disguised as Torres, the second when Paris rather bitterly asks if the EMH has anything he wants to confess to him (he doesn’t, though Paris very obviously thinks he should, dagnabbit).

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Homestead”

It’s Neelix’s swan song which, on the one hand, is very constructed and requires a huge suspension of disbelief, but on the other hand, is incredibly sweet and touching and feel-good-ish. And hey, Tuvok dances! (Kind of….) The Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch goes to the ol’ “Homestead.”

An excerpt:

And while that’s nice, it also doesn’t entirely ring right. Neelix has completely embraced the notion of being part of Voyager’s crew, right up to the top of this episode when he’s painstakingly re-created the bar scene in First Contact. (Minus the tequila, anyhow…) Yet all of a sudden, he decides to stay with these people. Admittedly, Dexa’s probably a big part of that, and it ultimately is a very nice little happy ending for a character who has not been particularly well served by the writing staff over the past seven years.

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Natural Law”

Chakotay and Seven crash yet another shuttle, and they commune with the locals. It’s one of Trek‘s few portrayals of Indigenous people that doesn’t make me cringe, though it still screws up the ending. The Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch must obey “Natural Law.”

An excerpt:

Where it falls down is in the ending. There are serious Prime Directive issues here, and the episode half-asses it. The problem is that the violation has already happened: Chakotay and Seven have exposed the Ventu to people outside the barrier that was placed around their home, and the Ledosians finally have access to that continent again. The final solution is one that involves Voyager making a decision that is contrary to the decision that the Ledosians have made. And it’s an attempt to put toothpaste back in the tube, which is exactly as messy as that sounds.

Here’s the problem: nobody talks to the Ventu. Chakotay has already figured out enough of their language to at least have rudimentary conversations. The Ventu are the ones who are supposed to be protected, yet nobody actually asks them what they want. Up until the end, the script did a great job of showing that the Ventu are self-sufficient and worthy of being considered a proper civilization, yet when it counts, nobody bothers to give them any agency in a major decision about their future.

three rewatch articles I wrote, in honor of Indigenous People’s Day

In honor of Indigenous People’s Day, I present three of my rewatch articles from Tor.com that cover the subject of how Indigenous folk were treated in episodes of the original Star Trek, the 1966 Batman, and Star Trek: Voyager.

Star Trek‘s “The Paradise Syndrome

And that’s not even getting into the racist hogwash. Kirk is amnesiac, but he can still perform CPR, come up with a canal network, create lamps out of pottery, and leap tall buildings in a single bound. Meanwhile, the locals are so stupid that Miramanee is stumped when confronted with the notion of taking off Kirk’s shirt, and they go from zero to stone-the heretic as soon as a storm hits and Kirk can’t get into the obelisk. The setup of the Preservers saving a race from extinction is one that could shine a light on genocide, but instead we just get the standard white-folks-are-smart-Indians-are-savages horseshit.

Batman‘s “An Egg Grows in Gotham”/”The Yegg Foes in Gotham

More problematic is Chief Screaming Chicken. There’s a fine line between satire and offensive stereotyping, and this episode just keeps dancing all over it. Mind you, there are some brilliant moments. The genuine American Indian blankets made in Japan bit is hilarious, and Batman’s story about Screaming Chicken’s time as a bottlewasher when someone told him to go back where he came from, and Robin sadly notes that this country is where he came from is a biting bit. But there’s the egg-scruciating thing where Screaming Chicken talks like a not-too-bright five-year-old. The fact that it was, at this point, pretty well entrenched in screen portrayals of Natives (especially in comedy) doesn’t make it any less horrible.

Star Trek: Voyager‘s “Tattoo

In order to apologize for centuries of oppression and war and genocide, and for many decades of portrayal in popular culture as inferior, we instead get New Age environmentalism. As a result, we get shiny happy Indigenous people who commune with nature and are pure and wonderful, which is just as patronizing an attitude as viewing them as technologically inferior savages was, albeit one that’s at least, y’know, nicer. It comes from a better place, but it’s still self-righteous, prejudicial nonsense.

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Friendship One”

Voyager seeks out a probe that 21st-century Earth sent out into the galaxy. They find it, and a planet devastated by a nuclear winter that they blame Earth for. Along the way, we get a totally gratuitous death. The Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch is really really annoyed by “Friendship One.”

An excerpt:

I hated this episode in 2001, and I hate it more twenty years later, because I’ve learned that show-runner Kenneth Biller apparently specifically told scripters Michael Taylor and Bryan Fuller that it was okay to kill off a recurring character in this one. First off, Voyager has so few recurring characters that this seems silly. The others they considered were Wildman and Tal, and I really wish in some ways they had gone with Wildman, because then, goddammit, there would have been consequences, as Wildman’s daughter Naomi is one of the few characters who’s actually had character development, and her mother’s death might have had an impact beyond the scope of this episode.

On top of that, the death is just so badly handled. We’ve seen twenty-fourth-century medicine perform all kinds of things, yet the EMH just stands there with his thumb up his ass when Carey is beamed aboard and declares him dead. Paris made more of an effort in this episode to save Brin’s child, yet no heroic efforts are made to even try to save Carey. (We won’t even get into the fact that Seven’s nanoprobes—which are being used right here in this episode to cure the aliens—aren’t used to try to revive him the way they were for Neelix in “Mortal Coil.”)

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Author, Author”

The EMH writes a holo-novel, and much wackiness ensues. What starts out as an invasion of privacy and ruining of reputations turns into a colloquy on sentience and rights of AIs. Also Kim, Torres, and Seven get to talk to family back home, and it’s lovely. The Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch cries out, “Author, Author.”

An excerpt:

Some aspects of Photons, Be Free, as well as Paris’ rewrite, provide some nice meta commentary on some of Voyager’s more problematic aspects. Jenkins shooting an unnamed, badly injured crew person so that the EMH can treat one of the “senior staff” for a mild concussion is a nasty riff on the fact that nobody seems to even notice when someone who isn’t in the opening credits dies, but it’s a major tragedy if any of the billed cast even gets hurt. It’s “Mortal Coil,” where Neelix gets the zombie Borg cure after he’s killed, which is never offered to any of the other folks on board who die, taken to its absurdist extreme. And then we have Marseilles’ womanizing ways and the comb-over version of the EMH drooling over the Borg triplets as a good satire on how creepy both Paris and the EMH have been over the years. And indeed, many of the crew treated the EMH poorly in the early going. (Of course, the one who always treated him like a person was Kes, and some acknowledgment of her role wouldn’t have been untoward here. Sigh. Three of Eight pretty much takes on the Kes role in Photons, Be Free.)

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Q2”

Q is back, and he’s dragged his kid along. Said kid is played by John deLancie’s son Keegan, which is just about the only really interesting thing about this slog of an episode. The Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch suffers through “Q2.”

An excerpt:

It’s, to coin a phrase, “Déjà Q” all over again! But where that TNG episode was absolutely hilarious and still managed to do some character development with Q (as well as Data), “Q2” is just a tired slog. There’s precious few of the laughs one expects from a Q episode, and what yuks we do have are puerile at best. The sex-farce humor is particularly sad, from q drooling over a naked Seven to Q materializing (fully clothed!) in Janeway’s bath.

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Human Error”

Seven experiments with social interactions on the holodeck, ranging from playing the piano to dating Chakotay. It ends poorly, as does the episode. The Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch suffers from “Human Error.”

An excerpt:

In the abstract, it’s a good idea to have Seven experimenting with social interactions and dating and attending parties and playing the piano. But then the ending screws it all up by having Seven’s cortical node knock her out. Yes, on this show where the reset button is routinely pushed to get everything back to the status quo no matter how unconvincing it is, they this time put an actual reset button in Seven’s head. And then they don’t let Seven accept the EMH’s offer to fix it.