Five Favorite Episodes of “STAR TREK VOYAGER” Season One (1995)

Below is a list of my five favorite episodes from Season One of “STAR TREK VOYAGER”. Created by Rick Berman, Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor; the series starred Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway:

 

FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “STAR TREK VOYAGER” SEASON ONE (1995)

1. (1.11) “State of Flux” – Captain Kathryn Janeway and other senior members of Voyager’s crew Janeway attempt to flush out a spy who is sending information to a group of aggressive Delta Quadrant species called the Kazon-Nistrim. Martha Hackett and Josh Clark guest-starred.

2. (1.14) “Faces” – When Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres, Lieutenant Tom Paris and Ensign Pete Durst are captured by Vidiians during an Away mission, Torres is split into her human and Klingon halves in order for her captors to use her DNA to find a cure for their species. Brian Markinson guest-starred.

3. (1.01-1.02) “Caretaker” – While searching for a Maquis ship with a Starfleet spy aboard in the series premiere, the U.S.S. Voyager is swept into the Delta Quadrant, more than 70,000 light-years from home, by an incredibly powerful being known as the “Caretaker”. Gavan O’Herlihy and Basil Langston guest-starred.

4. (1.04) “Time and Again” – While investigating a planet just devastated by a polaric explosion, Janeway and Paris are engulfed by a subspace fracture and transported in time to before the accident. Nicolas Surovy guest-starred.

5. (1.07) “Eye of the Needle” – Voyager’s crew discover a micro-wormhole leads to the Alpha Quadrant and makes contact with a Romulan ship on the other side with ironic consequences. Vaughn Armstrong guest-starred.

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” RETROSPECT: (4.08-4.09) “The Year of Hell”

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” RETROSPECT: (4.08-4.09) “The Year of Hell”

While reading some of the TREK forums and message boards over the years, I have noticed that many fans seemed to harbor mixed views of the “STAR TREK VOYAGER” Season Four two-part episode called (4.08-4.09) “The Year of Hell”.

“The Year of Hell” began with the U.S.S. Voyager entering Krenim space, the same region of space that the former Ocampan crewman, Kes, had warned about in the Season Three episode called (3.21) “Before and After”. Only Kes’ description of Krenim space was set in an alternate timeline in which a very powerful race came dangerously close to destroying Voyager within a year. The Krenim space encountered by the Federation starship at the beginning of this episode seemed a lot more benign . . . until something or someone alters the timeline.

Unbeknownst to Voyager’s crew, a Krenim military scientist named Annorax had developed a weapon ship designed to create temporal incursions. He used the to supervise the complete genocide of the Zahl, an enemy race that had ended the Krenim’s status as a dominant power in their region of the Delta Quadrant. But the erasure of the Zahl nearly caused the destruction of the Krenim. Annorax’s attempt to undo his actions led to the erasure of other worlds . . . and his wife from existence. And for two centuries, he has been creating one causality paradox after another in an attempt to get his wife back. However, one of Annorax’s actions allowed a formerly harmless Krenim ship that Voyager had encountered at the beginning of the episode to develop into a powerful starship and inflict heavy damage upon the Federation ship. In this new timeline, Janeway and the rest of Voyager’s crew are forced to endure a “year of hell”, as they struggle to survive.

Screenwriters Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky created a fascinating and complex tale of what could have befallen Voyager if some of Kes’ experiences in “Before and After” had occurred in their regular timeline. There have been occasions in which Voyager’s crew had encountered more powerful alien vessels and societies. The starship was also captured by alien forces on two or more occasions. “The Year of Hell” featured the second time that Kathryn Janeway and her crew were forced to survive for a period of time in a damaged starship. But “The Year of Hell” took place during a period of nearly an entire year. Watching Voyager’ become an increasingly uninhabitable vessel struck me as both fascinating and depressing. By the time Voyager was left with its senior staff (sans the kidnapped First Officer and Chief Pilot) after Janeway sent the rest of crew away in life pods, it had become a desolate place to be.

Braga and Menosky provided the episode with plenty of complex drama and characterizations. Kate Mulgrew gave an outstanding performance as a besieged Kathryn Janeway, determined to keep her crew alive and ship together by any means possible. Even if it meant sacrificing her health and sanity. The other outstanding performance came from guest star Kurtwood Smith, who portrayed the Krenim scientist, Annorax. Like Mulgrew, Smith portrayed his character as a leader determined to save or protect those he held dear – his species, his homeworld and especially his family. Unlike Janeway, Annorax’s determination led to a more tragic conclusion. Both Janeway and Annorax – on a larger scale – reminded me a great deal of the Captain Nemo character from Jules Verne’s 1870 novel, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”.

The supporting cast were given plenty of opportunities to shine. The best performances came from Tim Russ (Lieutenant-Commander Tuvok), Robert Beltran (Commander Chakotay), Robert Duncan McNeill (Lieutenant Paris) and Robert Picardo (the Doctor). Both Chakotay and Paris found themselves as prisoners aboard Annorax’s time ship in Part II of the episode. This situation gave Beltran an opportunity to convey Chakotay’s dismay at Annorax’s abuse of temporal mechanics and his desire to help the Krenim scientist restore the damaged timeline. McNeill was excellent in portraying Paris’ dismay at Chakotay’s cooperation and impatient desire to stop Annorax and find Voyager. Russ gave a poignant performance as the uber-efficient Tuovk, who is forced to depend upon Seven-of-Nine as his guide after he lost his sight in an explosion. Picardo had two juicy scenes in which he gave it his all, involving the Doctor’s moral dilemma in sacrificing several crewman in order to save a few and himself from the destruction of one of the ship’s decks; and the Doctor’s confrontation with Janeway over her careless attitude toward her health. Roxann Dawson, Garrett Wang and Jeri Ryan provided a bit of fun in a comedic scene in which Ensign Harry Kim, an injured Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres and Seven-of-Nine recalled a bit of Federation history from the 1996 movie, “STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT”. And second guest star John Loprieno was excellent in his portrayal of Obrist, Annorax’s first officer who becomes increasingly dismayed by the scientist’s abuse of the time ship.

Unfortunately for “The Year of Hell”, it has accumulated a good deal of negative comments about its ending. The mixed opinions of the entire episode stemmed from an ending that many fans viewed as a cop out. When Seven-of-Nine discovered a chroniton torpedo in one of the ship’s Jeffries tubes, the crew realized they had been the victims of temporal manipulations. Seven used a devise on the torpedo to successfully shield Voyager against Annorax’s time ship and any future temporal changes. However in Part II, Captain Janeway made an alliance with two species to attack the Krenim timeship. The remaining crew members move to the allied ships, while Janeway remained behind alone on Voyager to pilot the heavily damaged ship herself. After learning that the Krenim ship’s temporal core had been placed offline and theorizing that the true timeline will be restored if the Krenim ship is destroyed, Janeway ordered the fleet to drop their temporal shields before ramming Voyager into the time ship. Her actions destroyed Voyager, caused the time ship to destabilize and erase from history . . . and reset the timeline to the day Voyager first encountered the temporal waves.

Many TREK fans accused the episode’s writers of using the “reset button” to restore Voyager to its original timeline and erase the one featuring the year of hell. They also criticized Braga and Menosky for this act. Braga also did not want to use the “reset button” device. He wanted Voyager to remain wrecked for the rest of Season Four. But he failed to get his way, thanks to Paramount and producer Rick Berman. I do recall a fan fiction – a coda to the Season Seven episode (7.11) “Shattered” – that left Chakotay lost in time and both Janeway and Tuvok dead. As the new captain, Tom Paris was forced to land Voyager on an “M” class and order repairs on the ship that lasted for a year or more.

Recalling the state of Voyager in the alternate timeline, I saw no other fate for the ship if Janeway had not reset time. “Before and After” saw Voyager still traveling through Krenim space, despite its condition after nearly a year. But it did not look as damaged as it did right before the time reset in “The Year of Hell”. The idea of a wrecked Voyager still traveling through space after nearly a year . . . strikes me as illogical. And how did Braga plan to deal with Annorax and the time ship? Did he have plans for the Krenim scientist to remain the series’ main adversary for the rest of Season Four? Did he have plans for a series of plotlines featuring the adventures of the Voyager crew on an “M” class planet, while they repair the ship?

I am not saying that I am against the idea of time NOT being reset. But I still have bad memories of the early Season Three episodes of “BATTLESTAR GALACTICA”, in which some of the colonists ended up as prisoners of the Cylons on some planet. And combining that with the knowledge of the “reset button” being used on many occasions, I find it difficult to get upset over the ending for “The Year of Hell”. More importantly, I find it difficult to understand the fans and critics’ reactions to the use of the “reset button”. I guess I still find it so ridiculously strident, especially since such use of the plot device had been used so many times.

As far as I am concerned, “The Year of Hell” was a pretty damn good episode that featured an interesting twist on the Captain Nemo character and the alternate timeline subplot. It also featured superb performances from Kate Mulgrew and Kurtwood Smith, and some excellent acting from the rest of the cast. I am not surprised that it has remained one of my favorite episodes from the series’ Season Four.

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” RETROSPECT: (3.26-4.01) “Scorpion”

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” RETROSPECT: (3.26-4.01) “Scorpion”

After three seasons, the series “STAR TREK VOYAGER” entered into a new era with the two-part episode, (3.26-4.01) “Scorpion”. In “Scorpion”, the crew of the U.S.S. Voyager finally reaches Borg space after three seasons – an event that would serve as a turning point for the series. 

Aired at the end of Season Three and the beginning of Season Four, “Scorpion” finds the Voyager entering Borg space. To the crew’s surprise, they discover that the Borg is engaged in a major conflict with another alien race called Species 8472. An even more discovery awaits when Captain Kathryn Janeway and her crew learn that the Borg is losing its war with Species 8472. But when the crew’s Ocampa nurse, Kes, receives hostile telepathic messages from Species 8472 and when Operation Officer Ensign Harry Kim has an encounter with a member of Species 8472 that nearly costs him his life, Janeway decides that the only way for Voyager to survive this new conflict is to form an alliance with the Borg that would guarantee the ship’s safe passage through Borg space.

Written by Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky, and directed by David Livingston (“Part I”) and Winrich Kolbe (“Part II”);“Scorpion” turned out to be an excellent story that is regarded as the best two-part episode in the entire series by TREKfans. Personally, I do not share this particular opinion. But I must admit that it was first-rate. As I had stated earlier,“Scorpion” served as a turning point for “STAR TREK VOYAGER”. First of all, the episode featured Voyager’s first encounter with Species 8472. The episode – at least “Part II” introduced new crewmember, Seven-of-Nine aka Annika Hansen. Consequences from Janeway’s alliance with the Borg not left her with a new crewmember, but would end up having consequences in future episodes such as (4.16) “Prey”(4.26) “Hope and Fear”(5.04) “In the Flesh” and (5.15-5.16) “Dark Frontier”.

The emotional consequences of “Scorpion” was also well-handled by the screenwriters and the directors. One thing, the episode revealed that aside from the “Q” Continuum, a race more powerful than the Borg existed in “TREK” universe. Many fans saw the weakening of the Borg in the following “VOYAGER” episodes as something to mourn. I find this opinion amazing, considering that an episode highly popular with the fans, would prove to provide the first real sign of weakness with in the Borg. I had no problem with the gradual weakening of the Borg. If the Borg had remained the near unbeatable nemesis first introduced in “STAR TREK NEXT GENERATION”, their story arc would have remained stuck in perpetual stagnation. And it only seemed proper that the Borg’s gradual decline would occur on “VOYAGER”, considering that the series was set in the Delta Quadrant, their base of operation. There were other aspects of “Scorpion” that I found admirable – namely Jeffrey Baxter and Dick Brownfield’s special effects, along with Marvin V. Rush’s cinematography that greatly enhanced the sequences featuring the Borg’s confrontations with Species 8472.

“Scorpion” also revealed that the Janeway/Chakotay command team had yet to be fully been realized by the end of Season Three. When I first saw this episode, it amazed me that the Captain and her First Officer had failed to perfect a command style, after three years in the Delta Quadrant. Now I realized that I should not have been surprised. Janeway and Chakotay spent the first two seasons trying to merge the Starfleet and Maquis factions of the ship’s crew. Once the two factions learned to regard themselves as one crew , both Janeway and Chakotay spent all of Season Three congratulating themselves for achieving this fusion and ignoring the fact that they had yet learned to create a stable command team. They only had one misstep during Season Three – namely Chakotay’s experiences with a colony of former Borg drones in (3.17) “Unity”. Seasons One and Two served as Janeway and Chakotay’s attempts to fuse Voyager’s two factions into one. Season Three served as their honeymoon. But during Seasons Four and Five – starting with “Scorpion” – the two senior officers were finally forced to confront each other’s personality quirks and form a solid command team.

Both Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay made serious mistakes in “Scorpion”. Janeway blindly refused to accept Chakotay’s warnings about the Borg, believing that her position as Captain made her supremely right. She also allowed her disappointment in Chakotay’s doubts to blind her and take his criticisms personally. As for Chakotay, he allowed his past experiences with the former Borg drones in “Unity” to disobey Janeway and literally make a mess of the alliance she had formed with the Borg. It is possible that in this episode, he made a lousy First Officer, because he had yet to recover from no longer being the Captain of his old Maquis starship. Now, I do not expect the First Officer to follow his/her captain blindly. It might make for great screen chemistry, but in reality, I cannot help thinking that would be a dangerous situation. Imagine how the crew of the “U.S.S. Caine” would have fared if Van Johnson had blindly followed Bogart in 1954’s “THE CAINE MUTINY”. Or how would the U.S.S. Enterprise-E have fared if Doctor Beverly Crusher, Lieutenant-Commander Worf and Lily Sloane had allowed Picard to continue his obsession against the Borg in 1996’s“STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT”. I cannot help but feel that this conflict between Janeway and Chakotay should have been experienced by their first or second year together as Captain and First Officer. Not after three years. But unusual circumstances – namely their efforts to fuse the Starfleet and Maquis factions – prevented this.

Before I end this article, I have to comment on the acting featured in this episode. The supporting cast gave their usual solid performances – especially Tim Russ as Lieutenant Tuvok, Garrett Wang as Harry Kim, Jennifer Lien as Kes and Robert Picardo as the Doctor. But the truly outstanding performances came from three people – Kate Mulgrew, Robert Beltran and Jeri Ryan. The latter would prove to be an interesting addition to the “VOYAGER” cast as the ambiguous soon-to-be former drone, Seven-of-Nine. Beltran, who has always been belittled by “TREK” fans as a wooden performer, was far from wooden as a doubtful and paranoid Chakotay. Kate Mulgrew gave an equally first-rate performance as always complex and interesting Kathryn Janeway.

In a way, I can see why “Scorpion” is regarded by many “VOYAGER” fans as the high mark of the series. It is a well-written episode that steered the series into a new direction. But there are other two-part episodes that are bigger favorites of mine. I would not regard “Scorpion” as the high mark of “VOYAGER”, but perhaps as one of the series’ high marks.

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” RETROSPECTIVE: (3.24) “Displaced”

STAR TREK VOYAGER RETROSPECTIVE: (3.24) “Displaced”

I might as well be honest. I wish I could be objective about the ”STAR TREK VOYAGER” Season Three episode,”Displaced”. But I cannot. My feelings for this episode are too strong. Let me explain. 

Lisa Klink wrote the teleplay for this episode about Voyager’s crew members being replaced, one-by-one, with aliens from an unknown race. While arguing over a Klingon workout program that Chief Helmsman Tom Paris had created for the Holodeck, the pilot and Voyager’s Chief Engineer, B’ElannaTorres, are interrupted by a strange alien that has appeared aboard ship from nowhere. This phenomenon occurs over and over again, until both Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay realizes that this new alien race – called the Nyrians – are bent upon taking control of Voyager . . . but without the use of brute force. Eventually, the entire crew end up as prisoners on a habitat that also contains prisoners from other races whose ships and colonies were also conquered by the Nyrians in a similar manner.

Amidst the alien takeover of the ship, the continuation of the blossoming relationship between the ship’s Chief Helmsman, Lieutenant Tom Paris and Chief Engineer Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres hits a snag. In a previous episode called ”Distant Origin”, Paris had made a bet with Torres over the reason behind a ship malfunction. The Chief Helmsman won the bet and Torres was forced to participate with him in a Klingon exercise program in the Holodeck. Being inclined to avoid her Klingon heritage as much as possible, Torres resents that Paris is interested in all aspects of her entire self – both Human and Klingon. And later in the episode, both Torres and the Doctor revealed Tom’s own insecurities and his tendency to use jokes to hide them.

Temperatures seemed to have played a major role in ”Displaced”. From Paris and Torres’ heated argument over his Klingon martial arts program to the Nyrians and Torres’ low tolerance of cold temperatures, and to finally the warm reconciliation between the two future lovers inside the Holodeck. It was good to see Voyager’s crew – especially Janeway and Tuvok – work at retaking control of Voyager by utilizing the Nyrians’ teleportation system. I especially found Janeway’s ultimatums for the Nyrian leaders inside their habitat rather satisfying.

But what really made this episode rocked – at least for me – was the continuation of Paris and Torres’ courtship that began when the Chief Pilot made his first overture in ”The Swarm”, earlier in the season. By the time ”Displaced” had aired – some twenty episodes later – Paris has been in earnest pursuit of Torres. Lisa Klink had wonderfully brought out Paris’ determination to reveal to Torres, his interest in everything about her – and that included both her Human and Klingon sides – despite how she may have felt about the latter. Klink also did an excellent job of revealing the pair’s insecurities, which ended up providing many roadblocks to their romance and eventual marriage over three years later. Late Season Three and early Season Four had featured some of the best moments in the Paris/Torres relationship. At least until Season Seven. And among those gems included scenes from this episode.

Below are what I consider highlights from ”Displaced”:

*Paris and Torres’ quarrel over the Klingon martial arts program
*Tuvok’s revelation to Chakotay about his survival training experience on Vulcan
*Chakotay’s attempts to defend the ship from the Nyrians, reliving his old role as a Maquis captain
*The Doctor’s exposure of both Paris and Torres’ insecurities inside the Nyrian habitat
*Torres’ ”I’m not hostile” conversation with Harry Kim and his fearful reaction to her tone
*Paris and Torres’ frozen adventures inside another Nyrian habitat
*Janeway and Tuvok’s efforts to gain control of the Nyrians’ teleportation system
*Janeway’s confrontation with the Nyrian leaders

As I had earlier stated, I wish I could be objective about this episode. But how can I? Even after eleven years, I still love it. Lisa Klink’s teleplay seemed to feature everything – adventure, romance, humor, intrigue and rich characterization. It is easy to see why I consider ”Displaced” to be one of the best ”VOYAGER” episodes.