Baz Greenland wraps up his look at # Star Trek: Voyager on its 25th anniversary with a look back at its seventh and final season.
As Star Trek: Voyager celebrates its twenty fifth anniversary this year, The Digital Fix continues its look back at each season of the Star Trek spin-off. This time, we wrap things up with a revisit of the show’s final season
- Check out our look back at season one here
- Check out our look back at season two here
- Check out our look back at season three here
- Check out our look back at season four here
- Check out our look back at season five here
- Check out our look back at season six here
The final season of Star Trek: Voyager is paint by numbers Star Trek. There’s nothing particularly bad – certainly not on the level of Alliances, Favourite Son, The Fight or Fair Haven. But there’s nothing particularly memorable either. The days of Scorpion and Year of Hell are long past, part of the show’s glory days when it attempted to differentiate itself from its siblings as truly blockbuster Star Trek. If season six saw the light go out on the show, then season seven was the lifeless limp to the finish line. Showrunner Brannon Braga left to work on Star Trek: Enterprise and regular writer Kenneth Biller was brought in to steer the ship home. Unfortunately, he did so by making perhaps the blandest season of Star Trek in the franchise’s history.
Season opener Unimatrix Zero Part 2 fails to kick the season off in style; the Borg Queen herself can’t save the Borg from the death knell as the once fearsome enemy have all the bite taken out of them. The renegade Borg never materialise again – Star Trek: Voyager is never one for continuity after all. When Voyager faces three Borg cubes in later episode Q2, Janeway virtually shrugs her shoulders, confident she can face the threat head on. When the Borg and their Queen are back in the series finale Endgame, there’s no mention whatsoever of the continued impact to the Borg.
Talking of which, the show’s fascination with trying to become Star Trek: The Next Generation mark II continues. Along with the Borg in the season opener and finale, Q makes his final appearance in the franchise, handing off his son Q to ‘god mother’ Janeway. While there is some fun to be hand with the real life father and son of John and Keegan de Lancie, it’s hardly the most memorable of the Q entries in the Star Trek universe. We’re also treated to TNG-style Ferengi (i.e. the Ferengi without all the depth Star Trek: Deep Space Nine offered them) in Inside Man, which trots out Reginald Barclay and Deanna Troi once more; The appeal of seeing these two characters again certainly looses its shine by this point and marks Marina Sirtis’s final appearance on the show. The Ferengi plot is tiresome – more The last Outpost than The Magnificent Ferengi.
There’s also plenty of archetypal Star Trek lots that fill lifted from earlier episodes, of focusing on social issues without really doing anything interesting with them. Critical Care has the Doctor in what amounts to ‘US healthcare is bad’, but everyone knew that already and it doesn’t challenge the issue with much conviction. Repentances tackles the death penalty as Voyager plays host to a prison ship carrying its people to death row. There are moments when the story looks to tackles the injustice of race, only to spectacularly backfire by making the ‘white’ serial killer a victim of a neurological disease and turn the ‘black’ sympathetic prisoner into a liar and violent perpetrator. Both Body and Soul and Renaissance Man feature the Doctor in classic ‘body swap’ episodes. They both play the same crude gags – oh no, the Doctor is in the body of a woman and has to kiss a man! – but never really amount to much. Body and Soul at least entertains by having Jeri Ryan do a perfect impression of the Doctor. Renaissance Man features the return of a bland recurring alien last introduced in season six’s Tinker Tailor, Doctor Spy.
There isn’t really anything that counts as a series arc – certainly not as a build up to the finale. B’Elanna Torres and Tom Paris get some progression; they marry in Drive, but that is almost as a final scene afterthought, with the wedding itself happening off screen. This sets up Torres’ pregnancy in Lineage, which repeats the same issues of Torres facing up to her Klingon heritage that we’ve seen every season before, culminating in the arrival of ancient Klingons in Prophecy (though at least we don’t get a Paris is a rebel episode this season thankfully). While Prophecy latter episode attempts to explain the Klingons as descendants of a ship that left the Beta Quadrant over a century before, its frustrating that Star Trek: Voyager returns to classic aliens rather than offering interesting new ones.
The first big two-parter of season seven is a frustrating affair. Flesh and Blood Parts 1 and 2 should have been the highlight of the year. They feature the return of the Hirogen, dealing with the ramifications of Janeway giving holodeck technology to the hunters in season four’s The Killing Game. But it doesn’t explain how Voyager can still run into the aliens when they’ve travelled over three decades worth of space since their last encounter. The Hirogen themselves lack the menace they had in season four and the conflict of Janeway’s decision is never satisfactorily addressed. It’s a shadow of when Star Trek: Voyager was at its best, a reflection carried throughout the final year.
If there is one theme that can attributed to season seven, it’s its focus on holographic lifeforms. Body and Soul sees the Doctor in hiding from an alien race that have faced a revolt by holographic lifeforms. Flesh and Blood taps into this idea in a big way – the holodeck creations the Hirogen are hunting have turned on their creators, forcing the Doctor to choose between his ‘people’ and Voyager. Inside Man sees the crew duped by a renegade holographic Barclay and Author, Author segways drastically from a story about a trashy holonovel created by the Doctor that puts the crew in a bad light to a court case about holographic rights. It’s a pale imitation of Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s The Measure of a Man, without any of the substance. At worst, it shows the Federation to have turned all copies of the EMH Mark I into a slave race, which is dark for a show that usually attempts to show the Federation in a flattering light. The trouble is, even that element feels unintentional, perhaps missing the point on the discussion of what holographic rights might mean in the first place.
The Doctor gets the biggest focus in season seven, becoming the central focus of no less than seven episodes, and while that focus is not always flattering, there is an attempt to develop his character to the furthest point he can go. Torres and Paris take the next steps in their relationship, with Torres giving birth in the closing moments of the finale. There is a brief exploration of her strained relationship with her father – flashbacks to her past in Lineage cement her own beliefs – while the re-established contact with Earth sees her build new bridges with her father in Author, Author. It’s also an episode that suggest Paris will reconnect with his estranged father; sadly the finale squanders any such reunion, despite the presence of Richard Herd’s Admiral Owen Paris in that episode – the return to Earth only coming seconds before the end credits.
Other character fare less well. Tuvok’s only interesting recurring story across the seven seasons is to have him loose his inhibitions. In Repression, he looses him mind, turning on the crew, while Endgame establishes a degenerative brain disease that will see him loose control entirely in the future. The inevitable Pon Farr moment that has to happen in a seven-season show featuring a Vulcan is squandered away as a jokey sub plot in Body and Soul. Harry Kim gets one last focus in Nightingale, a frustrating episode that seems him botch yet another command position and remain forever the eternal ensign (at least until the future shown in Endgame). Neelix gets one last hurrah in Homestead, the anti-penultimate episode of the show, which boots him off the ship when he runs into a colony of Talaxiaans that are somehow half a quadrant away from the home planet. Even the Borg children – minus Icheb – inherited in season six are bizarrely written out in the opening moments of second season seven episode Imperfection.
Seven of Nine has had a fascinating story across the previous three seasons – adjusting to individuality in season four, choosing Voyager over the Borg in season five and becoming a surrogate mother in season six. Sadly, even the best character in Star Trek: Voyager gets nothing interesting to do in the final season. At least her parental relationship with Icheb remains at least somewhat engaging (carrying through to the tragedy in Star Trek: Picard). However, season seven either has her suffer through degenerating implants in Imperfection and Human Error and then saddled with a dull, pointless romantic relationship with Chakotay, despite the lack of chemistry between them. Except that season seven doesn’t even do that right. Human Error sees her experiment with a holographic Chakotay without his knowledge. When the two are stranded on a planet in Natural Law, the obvious relationship-building episode, there is no hint of romance at all. And yet, in Endgame, they are a couple. It is lazy, haphazard and there is no sense of connectivity between one episode and the next.
Robert Beltran at least gets one good episode in Shattered, an episode that sees Chakotay jumping through different points in the ship’s history. It’s a fun episode, with some great cameos, but it could have served any character. Chakotay himself has no agency or storyline driven by him in season seven. In addition to Shattered, there are three other good episodes this season. The Void is the real highlight of the year, an episode that sees the ship stuck in the titular void with other races, forced to work together in a hostile environment. It’s an episode that encapsulates everything Star Trek: Voyager could have been, just like Year of Hell in season four, though The Void doesn’t come close to that level. The subsequent two-part Workforce is an interesting story that sees the crew trapped on a planet with no memory of their lives, while the Doctor, Chakotay and Harry struggle to free them. It’s low-key compared to usual Star Trek: Voyager two-parters, but it does some solid character work for a chance, particularly Kate Mulgrew, who is going an absorbing narrative centred around her life away from Voyager and a romance with James Read’s Jaffen.
And then there is Endgame. Star Trek: The Next Generation delivered one of the finest TV finales of all time in All Good Things, a terrific time travel adventure that didn’t need to tie everything up because Star Trek: Generations was on its way. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine didn’t have a film franchise on its way, but it delivered a sprawling 10-episode finale that paid off on seven epic years of storytelling. Like the pilot episode and season one, the finale of Star Trek: Voyager had so much potential. What would happen the ship got home? Would the Marquis crewmembers be absolved on their crimes? Would Janeway face interrogation for her non-Starfleet actions out in the wilderness of the Delta Quadrant? How would Seven of Nine adjust to life in the Alpha Quadrant? Would the Doctor be allowed to continue to evolve as an individual? Even small things like Tom Paris reconciling with his father; there was enough material for several episodes to explore the story of what happened after the show returned home.
Even at the end, Star Trek: Voyager squanders its potential. Playing instead as a homage to All Good Things – yet another of the show’s fascination with trying to replicate Star Trek: The Next Generation – Endgame packs time travel elements into a story of a future Admiral Janeway going back to bring her crew home. After learning that the ship would take another sixteen years to come home, both Janeways work together to use Borg technology to get home faster, while dealing the Borg a devastating blow. There are some great moments. Mulgrew does stellar work playing two Janeways, the older even more ruthless than the captain of the last few seasons. Alice Krige makes a welcome return as the Borg Queen. But it never deals with what happens next. Instead, it delivers a blockbuster finale that damages the Borg like never before and is instead content to have Voyager flying towards Earth in the episode’s closing moments. The most interesting part of this story is what happens next. Aside from Seven and Icheb in Star Trek: Picard, and Janeway’s cameo as an Admiral in Star Trek: Nemesis, we learn nothing.
Season seven could have laid the groundwork for the finale, intercutting present day storylines with the narrative of what happened when the crew got home. It could have built towards the explosive finale in a far more satisfying manner. Instead, little that happens before Endgame impacts upon it. The twenty-four episodes before it lack grandeur and ambition. Voyager reaching Earth was inevitable. It could have done something far more interesting getting there. But showrunner Kenneth Biller does none of that. It coasts along in the blandest way possible. Star Trek: Voyager never reached the heights of Star Trek: The Next Generation or Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but there were moments when it could be great – as season four certainly proved. Sadly, season seven has none of that greatness. It ends on a twenty-six episode whimper.
Season Seven’s Best Episode: The Void (7.15)
The Void encapsulates everything that Star Trek: Voyager should have been from the start. Forging alliances, trading technology, evading hostile races and comprising Starfleet ideals for survival. This is a 45-minute episode doing everything right with the premise, even if it is seven years too late.
Season Seven’s Worst Episode: Nightingale (7.08)
It isn’t as bad as the worst episodes of seasons two to seven, but there isn’t much going for this episode. Harry Kim fights for command and fails miserably. It’s a story we’ve seen before, demonstrating that Kim is sadly the weakest member of the show’s ensemble.
Season Seven’s Best Moment: The Doctor inhabits Seven in Body and Soul
Jeri Ryan is the best performer in the cast; seeing her impersonate the Doctor highlights her comic talents and performance skills. It elevates an otherwise average episode…
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