Thursday, October 13, 2011

'Star Trek: Voyager' Season Six (1999)

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

When we last left our heroes, the crew of the starship Voyager had encountered another Federation ship, the Equinox, whose crew we discover have been torturing and killing strange aliens in order to use their energy to get home faster.  As season six opens, Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) is at odds with her first officer Commander Chakotay (Robert Beltran) on how to deal with the aliens attacking Voyager and finding and stopping the Equinox. 

Chakotay wants to seek out another race of aliens that may be able to help them, while Janeway is dead-set upon destroying the Equinox and getting revenge against Captain Ransom (John Savage).  Meanwhile, Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) and the Doctor (Robert Picardo) have been kidnapped by the Equinox crew. It will all lead to a final showdown between the two Starfleet crews, ones who have kept up their morals and standards, and others who are willing to trade the lives of others in order to get home.

Throughout the rest of the season, the starship Voyager will again encounter a variety of strange new cultures and bizarre anomalies.  Seven of Nine will come face to face with her past as she encounters former Borg drones she used to be connected to.  B'Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson) will reexamine her feelings toward Klingon religious beliefs after a strange near-death experience.  Harry Kim (Garret Wang) will (again) fall in love with the wrong woman - this time, the reanimated corpse of a former shipmate.  Kes (Jennifer Lien) returns, older and resentful of her former friends.

And, ultimately, Janeway will come face to face once again with the Borg Collective. This time, Janeway sees an opportunity to bring the Collective crashing down on itself when Seven of Nine discovers a hidden community of rebels hiding inside a Borg virtual reality.  But getting inside will require a dangerous and unorthodox plan.

While I thought Season Five was quite impressive for the middling 'Star Trek' spinoff, Season Six falls off.  There are some good episodes here, but the sense of wild fun that permeated Season Four and character exploration of Season Five are rarely found.  The season opener, "Equinox, Part II" fails to live up to the promise of the first part.  The conflict between Janeway and Chakotay feels trite and has been explored better in previous episodes like "Scorpion." 

There are a few cool episodes sprinkled throughout the season, such as "Dragon's Teeth" which has some great special effects work, and "Pathfinder," featuring guest appearances from 'Next Generation' characters Reg Barclay (Dwight Schulz) and Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis).  For the most part, though, Season Six feels like it's just going through the motions.  Many of the episodes are well produced on a technical level, but don't offer much dramatic substance, or even the wild, absurd fun of the previous seasons. 

Episodes such as "Fair Haven" and "Spirit Folk" are mostly tedious exercises where the crew fiddles about in the holodeck.  More appearances of the Borg continue to erode the interesting or threatening aspects of that enemy, especially the finale, "Unimatrix Zero."  While the basic idea behind the crew trying to spur a Borg rebellion is pretty interesting, the episode devolves entirely into idiocy. The Borg never seemed less threatening than in "Unimatrix Zero," and the final moments of the episode are head-shakingly bad.  "Good Shepherd" tries to mimic the success of a similar TNG episode, but ends up being obnoxious and almost mean-spirited in doing so.  "Fury" brings back former main castmember Jennifer Lien as Kes, but does so in such a manner that not only wastes the character, but tarnishes her as well.

With only a small handful of good episodes, Season Six is mostly just boring.  The cast have settled into their roles and still have solid chemistry, but there's little in this season that stands out.