Saturday, October 29, 2011

'Star Trek: Voyager' Season Seven (2000)

Starring Kate Mulgrew, Jeri Ryan and Robert Picardo
Created by Rick Berman, Jeri Taylor and Michael Piller
Based on 'Star Trek' created by Gene Roddenberry

Here it is; the end of another seven-year 'Star Trek' saga.  The starship Voyager, after seven years lost in the Delta Quadrant, finds itself closer and closer to home.

As the season opens, Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew), Commander Tuvok (Tim Russ) and Lt. B'Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson) have infiltrated a Borg cube by allowing themselves to be assimilated into the Borg Collective to help spur a rebellion.  The Borg Queen (Susanna Thompson) is getting closer to discovering the secrets of Unimatrix Zero, putting Janeway and her crew in danger, as well as the lives of countless drones that could be freed from the Queen's oppression.  Meanwhile, Commander Chakotay discovers that the key to stopping the Queen may involve destroying Unimatrix Zero itself, allowing the rebellion to live but cutting off its ability to connect over long distances.

Throughout the year, the crew of Voyager will face more adventures in the depths of unknown space.  Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) will confront her inability to feel the full breadth of human emotion.  Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) participates in an alien race to prove his ability and giving him a chance to propose to Torres.  The Doctor (Robert Picardo) will press forward a campaign for the rights of holograms as artificial life forms.  Commander Chakotay will take a tour of Voyager's past, present and future when the ship is torn into different time periods.

And all along, Lieutenant Reginald Barclay (Dwight Schulz) will come closer and closer to devising a strategy for Voyager to return home to Earth.  But doing so may bring Voyager into conflict once again with Starfleet's greatest enemy, the Borg, and a final confrontation between Janeway and the Borg Queen (Alice Krige, this time).

Through the course of Season Seven, the show closes out a number of long-running storylines.  The tone of the show follows through with this, as nearly every episode feels like a show getting close to it's finale.  It rarely feels though it's merely a matter of time before Voyager finds itself on Earth's door, rather than some dangerous uncertainty.  And I don't even mean to just us the audience; the crew of Voyager seems to feel the same way.

There are a few stand-out episodes this season, enough to put the show above the Season Six low point.  The season opener, "Unimatrix Zero, Part II" is just as much an hour of trash and nonsense as the first part, but episodes like "Critical Care" and "Workforce" make up for it.

In the first, the Doctor is stolen and forced into service on a world where medical care is decided by what use a person has to society.  Of course this concept is a total affront to the Doctor, who feels that everyone deserves the same level of care, regardless of their station in life.  It's a pretty good dramatic episode, one that really shows what sci-fi is capable of - that is, using a fantastic situation to shine a light on an aspect of our own society.

"Workforce" is an unusual two-parter.  The typical two-part episode for "Voyager" is as an action spectacle to blow out the special effects budget.  Instead, "Workforce" is a rather slow-paced affair, saving its larger action set-pieces for the second half and even then the episode shows restraint.  This is not the over-the-top excesses of season four's "The Killing Game."  Instead, it is a rather well-told story of the Voyager crew being essentially sold into slavery, their minds wiped, with only Chakotay and the Doctor to try and rescue them from a world that acquires its labor force by illicit means.  It's one of the show's better episodes, giving the entire cast something solid to chew on, rare dramatic meat for a show better suited to ridiculous action and colorful special effects.

In "The Void," the ship finds itself stuck inside some kind of anomaly, forced to gather allies and share supplies to escape.  Janeway essentially creates a micro version of the Federation, teaching its values to others in order to work together toward a common goal.  This is the kind of episode the show should have been doing all along.

Ultimately, the series finale, "Endgame" presents its own problems.  For much of its runtime, it is one of the show's finer episodes.  And then it all comes crashing down in the last ten minutes or so.  The whole episode simply falls apart, and the ending is wrapped up entirely too quickly.  There's no attempt by the show to give the characters any kind of emotional closure, essentially fading to black at the critical moment with no payoff whatsoever for the audience.  So "Voyager" ends up ending on a whimper, which is unfortunate even given the fact that the show as a whole is thoroughly mediocre.

"Voyager" was never a great show, though it proves that when it tries, it can be quite entertaining.  Season Seven isn't the show's highest moment, though it has a handful of solid episodes worth watching it.  It's just too bad that the finale ends up pissing away the goodwill it musters, "a sour bite to end the meal."