Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Discuss: Star Trek: Voyager

Karen: What did you think of the fourth series to bear the Star Trek name?


J.A. Morris said...

I liked this show okay, watched it occasionally. I thought the ensemble was pretty good. And I like that they had a woman captain. I just wish she wasn't played by Kate Mulgrew, never been a fan of her.

William Preston said...

One thing that made evident to me how bad the show was and how poorly constructed were its characters: the only strong episodes, for me, were the "alternate/apocalyptic" ones. There are two ships and everyone on one has to die; the ship is caught in a backwash of time-rewriting (an amazing two-parter) so their whole history has been rewritten; several characters return from the future to save the ship from being destroyed. Basically, any episode that resulted in everyone dying or the ship being endlessly assaulted was enjoyable, because then the characters finally shut up and did something interesting.

The problems were many.

1. After initially establishing a separation between Maquis and Federation characters, the show had to give up on that tension (save for maybe one episode). The personification of this was B'Elanna Torres, the most boring Klingon in history.

2. Several horribly uncharismatic actors, including the guy who was supposed to be the most charismatic, Tom Paris. The captain herself never caught fire for me. (The strongest actors were Robert Picardo, who always brought something to his line readings, Tim Russ, the first credible Vulcan since Spock, and Ethan Phillips, who, sadly, had a tremendously annoying role.)

3. A visual intro that didn't fit the actual show. Probably, that was the best visual sequence of all the shows, promising the exploration of strange places. But, really, the other "quadrant" had the exact same stories as "our" quadrant, and the strangeness of the first ep's thinking quickly vanished.

4. The show quickly settled on a few camera placements on the bridge and never varied from them. It was tremendously lazy direction. Pragmatic, I suppose, and cost-effective, but so dull to look at.

5. Worst story-arc villains ever. Now I've forgotten what they were called, those whiny Klingon knockoffs with the dreds who endlessly followed the ship. The only good use of them was in the Brad Dourif two-parter (again, crazily apocalyptic stuff happens).

david_b said...

This show marked 'yet another franchise entry'. As mentioned on the TOS column, it's probably tied for most inspiring opening theme.

Overall in my opinion, the stories lack zest and zeal, although the comical bits sure made the otherwise dull ensemble charming (Tom's Captain Proton bits, the ever-awesome Mr. Picardo, some holodeck shenanigans..). 'Futures End' was a fun 2-part episode, allowing Paris, Tuvok and the Doc to stretch their comic talents a bit farther.

If you all recall, it was touted as the 'new UPN' flagship show, so there's probably more 'backroom deals' and politics/pressure associated with the show's creative staff, marketing profits, etc than any other Trek franchise entry.

As for episodes, many villains used were pretty pithy, insipid, and unconvincing (Kazons, Jem'Hadar, etc..), bridge and other set lighting were soft and a bit dark, the action sequences a bit too forced. As William noted, not a lot of imagination on camera angles.

It came at a time of Trek-saturation on many fronts, like toy marketing, books, conventions, where unfortunately 'Voyager' virtually a 'has-been' ratings-wise by the end of it's initial year. And, as mentioned above, it's direct ties with the 'UPN network juggernaut' and it's own difficulties in several local markets limited it's potential success as well.

A mixed blessing, it did welcome back QUITE a lot of Trek actors from other shows (Barclay, Riker, Q, etc..). Likewise, Picardo's cameo in 'First Contact' was one of the best Trek movie bits ever.

During it's low-ratings years, we did watch Janeway channel some Shatner into her command style, even verbally referencing him a few times. 'Making deals with the Borg'..? Eh, on many occasions near the end, the show seemd quite frantic to latch on to the Borg and success of 'First Contact' at the cost of more original creativity. I guess when you're struggling for ratings...

All in all, I look for character development and entertaining stories. If you can get past the lame villains and the Kes/Neelix storylines, it provided minimal amount of both.

Frankly, 'Best of Both Worlds' made Next Gen stand on it's own merits, leaving the Original Series eons behind; it's a shame Voyager's production staff couldn't (or didn't want to) manage the same feat.

Matt Celis said...

I saw maybe half a dozen of these...just wasn't that exciting. The core concept was, to me, anti-Trek: let's go home. The characters were mostly bland, the captain had zero charm or charisma. She played every scene the same stiff way, like a bad Katharine hepburn impression. Tom Paris was supposed to be charismatic? Coulda fooled me! The only actors I found appealing
were Tuvok (is that his name?), the hologram doctor, and Jeri Ryan's hot-bot who used strict logic.

Really annoying to me was yet another "holograms have human rights" episode, which was already done about
10 times on the Picard show in one form
or another.

Did they ever get home? Did hot-bot become
human? Did holo-doc get human rights?

david_b said...

Oh, as for Jeri Ryan as 'Seven'..? I'm probably in the minority here, but could you have made a more blatant pathetic pitch for pre-pubescent geek-boy viewership..??

Seriously, what would Gene have thought of this silly, tight-catsuit, in-your-face attempt at sexuality..?

Didn't do a thing for any male I know who watched. It insulted the more mature viewer, a definite no-no.

As mentioned on so many creative fronts, Berman, Piller and Taylor simply tried too hard, and in the process lost the core values of what made Trek great.

William said...

My opinion of "ST: Voyager" echos many of the above comments. For me it was mostly the bland and uninspired characters that made me not like this show as much as past Star Trek series.

If you really think about it, Trek has always been about the characters, not the special effects. The original show really had the best cast with Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, etc. Then Next Gen with Picard, Data, Worf and others. The only characters I liked at all on Voyager were Tuvok and the holo-doc. I liked the idea of the native american first officer, but he was just so cliche and boring. I also liked the idea of a female captain, but, unlike Kirk, Picard, and even Sisko, instead of inspirational and competent, she mostly came off as abrasive and grating, and the rest of the cast was just plain annoying.

Another thing I didn't care for was Voyager's "Gilligan's Island" theme that goes "Hey, I've found us a way to get home." Then just as they are about to succeed, something happens to screw it up. I watched the show for the first couple of seasons, hoping that it would get better, but it really just got worse as it went along, and I eventually lost all interest. I don't even know if they ever made it back to Federation space-- and what's worse-- I really don't even care.

This show could have contributed to the reason that I never got into the last Star Trek series to air "ST: Enterprise". I watched one or two episodes of that one and just found it to be boring and pointless.

Hopefully someday they'll revive the Star Trek franchise on TV and it will be worth watching again. That would be cool.

Karen said...

I'm pretty much of the same opinion as the rest of you. I tried to watch the show for a couple of seasons, hoping it would get better, but eventually gave up. I never warmed to the characters, who were the most bland and uninteresting crew (and for the most part, actors) I'd seen in Trek. I did like the Doctor -Robert Picardo can usually be counted on to provide a good performance in any show. I also agree with William P., Tim Russ was one of the few actors who really 'got' what being a Vulcan meant. But otherwise, phht.

I had hoped that the initial set up, with the Federation crew and the rebel Maquis group, would have provided a lot of story material, but that went absolutely nowhere. The introduction of Jeri Ryan's Seven of Nine was such a blatant attempt to sex up the show that I could never take the character seriously.

I have no desire to go back and look at this show again.

Matt Celis said...

You mean the Gene Roddenberry who gave us miniskirt uniforms and dancing, green-skinned slave girls?

Anonymous said...

Ha! Point well taken Matt.

David_b do you have a green-skinned Yvonne Craig avatar?


Edo Bosnar said...

Hmmm, tough crowd. Needless to say, I disagree with everyone here. Voyager is my favorite after TOS. I'm not really getting all the criticism about characters being bland or uninteresting - I found the opposite was the case (and, as per my comment in the DS9 thread, there were far fewer annoying characters). I'll concede that Seven's bodysuit was pure exploitation, but the character herself was pretty interesting.

Also completely and utterly disagree with William Preston about the best episodes, i.e., only the earth-shattering, apocalyptic ones were good. My personal favorites are the ones that are more understated: The Thaw, in which they come across aliens whose minds are connected to a computer program in which their fear manifests itself as this sadistic jester (played by Michael McKean); Latent Image - the Doctor finds out his memory of an event that wracked him with guilt has been erased; Course: Oblivion - to hard to describe in one sentence, but it's rather thought-provoking and sad; Body and Soul - the Doctor's program gets uploaded into Seven's Borg implants, so he temporarily takes control of her body and experiences physical sensations for the first time (with often hilarious results); and finally Distant Origin - probably my favorite episode of any Trek ever. They meet up with descendants of a species of dinosaur. This is what Trek is all about to me...

Mike said...

I find the responses I've heard about this show over the years all the way to this article are very interesting. It seems like there are very few middle of the road opinions -- you either fervently loved this show, or not. I did not.

Anonymous said...

A couple of seasons? I gave up after a couple of episodes. I've never been able to handle the real Katherine Hepburn's voice for more than a few minutes. This show was so dull that Mulgrew's irritating Hepburn impersonation is the only thing I remember about it.

Contrast this mess with Babylon 5, which went from strength to strength in the 90's until the end of it's 4th season...and with probably a much smaller budget.

James Chatterton

david_b said...

Matt, Tom, you guys crack me up.

Nope, you're right on the skin-flashing of the Original Series, no argument there.

But, in perspective, the comparison of a '60s network show with occasional episodes with skin (or Next Gen with that crazy episode in it's first year with folks wearin' practically nothing..) and a '90s show specifically adding a regular character designed to capitalize on Borg coolness and large breasts. Not much of an argument, gents.

In hindsight, didn't Rodenberry want to add a character in Genesis II with two-belly buttons, to nag the network censors about the inability to show 'em on primetime..? Some of you Trekkers should recall which pilot that was.

Great discussion, everyone.

david_b said...

Actually, another sidenote..: Gene did add Walter Koenig to Trek's 2nd year to entice female viewers away from 'The Monkees'.., so yes, he wasn't above giving viewers what they wanted for ratings.

But I'd like to think Trek progressed past that in 30yrs.

Guess not.

Karen said...

David, I think that Roddenberry show was Genesis II, with Mariette Hartley as the chick with two navels. It also had Ted Cassidy, aka Lurch, as a humongous Native American dude.

They basically tried the Seven of Nine thing again on Enterprise with the Vulcan woman whose name escapes me. I thought both women had sort of harsh faces and up and down anatomy -like brooms with two large melons attached. But what do I know? It seems to me the most attractive female crew member award would still go to Nichelle Nichols, after all these years. A beautiful lady, who despite the ridiculous mini-skirt, seemed to always carry herself with dignity.

david_b said...

Karen, very well said and I could not agree more.

(Let's all excuse that STUPID fandago dance she performed Star Trek V..... It never happened.)

[....As david_b waves his hand over the crowd using the Jedi mind trick..]

Edo Bosnar said...

Karen, no argument about Nichelle Nichols...

Matt Celis said...

"up and down anatomy"? never heard that term

Garett said...

This one comes in third for me, after TOS and Next Gen. The captain would've been better played by another actress--I remember hearing they hired another actress, who started filming but was unable to continue. What if?

I liked 7 of 9. She looked great, spiced the show up, and was an interesting new character type that hadn't been seen before on Trek. Vulcans, Klingons...done that. Chakotay the first officer was pretty good, and the doctor was again something new and entertaining.

The premise of being lost in space was intriguing, and I was excited about the possibilities after dull Deep Space 9. But...never really happened with enough gusto.

Who would've been a good '90s actress instead of Mulgrew? Geena Davis? I guess too big a star and not captain-y enough. Diane Lane?

Edo Bosnar said...

Garett, the actress initially cast to play Janeway was Genevieve Bujold - I think some scenes were even shot with her playing captain, because I remember seeing screen shots in a magazine a long time ago. To be honest, I'm glad she stepped down. I pretty much dislike Mulgrew in every other role I've seen her play, but I liked her here, and I think she really grew into the role and made it her own (just like Shatner with Kirk and Stewart with Picard).

david_b said...

James, quite frankly, Babylon 5 was much more entertaining to watch than the post-Next Gen characters/stories of the '90s. I liked the Boxleitner years best (Years 2-4).

Much more serious and darker than Trek, the stories had more depth, the politics better defined, characters much more interesting.

Only meant as a 5yr story arc to begin with, Straczynski always brought each season in under budget.

How many scifi producers can claim that..?

Anonymous said...

I watched every episode, but I'd probably rank this last as far as all the Trek shows go. It had good episodes and bad ones, and some characters were more interesting than others. Probably the best parts of the show were the "character" moments: Tom and Harry's friendship, Neelix's goofiness, Seven and the Doctor's attempts to understand humanity.

One of my favourite episodes was "Someone to Watch Over Me" where the Doctor talks Seven into asking some guy out on a date and it's a disaster...I loved when she cracked the lobster with her bare hands and when she dislocated the guy's shoulder while dancing with him!

Mike W.

Garett said...

Thanks Edo--here's a filmed scene with Bujold as captain:
Quite different!

Edo Bosnar said...

Garett, thanks for that link! Never saw that before, but it confirms what I said above: I think Mulgrew was a better choice.

Pat Henry said...

Established a strong series premise in the pilot. Divided crew, limited resources, unknown terrain... Systematically destroyed the series premise in every episode that followed.

Makes you wonder why they introduced an idea if they didn't want to explore the idea....

Garett said...

I'm not so sure Edo! I watched it a couple times, and the first I thought she was too quiet, but then...she has a calm strength, not as outward as Mulgrew. Could've been interesting to see where she'd take the role, and how it'd affect the rest of the cast.

Matt Celis said...

I'n almost feeling sorry for Voyager getting kicked around like this!

Anonymous said...

Never saw it - and apparently I didn't miss much!

- Mike 'looking for some Romulan ale' from Trinidad & Tobago.

M said...

Let's just say, I like Enterprise better. . .

I think I gave this about three episodes and tried about one to two episodes each season after. . .

Rip Jagger said...

Easily the weakest of the franchises, this was a series I really looked forward to. One of the big problems with the Star Trek universe is the comfortable way the humans and others zing around the universe in vehicles that often feel more like indoor malls than spacecraft. They lack for nothing, there's no sense of an environment which might put a strain on a human or alien. Space is a thrill ride pure and simple.

The early news on Voyager was that it might offer something else. A starship isolated from the fleet by an impossible distance, on its own and struggling just to survive. But sadly despite their limited access, they crew rarely seems deprived of anything they either need or want. Sure they stop a lot on planets and whatnot, or find traders, but they usually live pretty cozily as they zoom home.

Space can be a pretty scary place. The first Star Trek offered up the idea of space as a warehouse for the imagination, an awesome expanse that humans were penetrating for the first time with profound consequences. Next Generation formalized that approach but after a few years began to stagnate around it. DS9 opened up the premise and freshened for a time. Voyager should've done the same, given the franchise the sense of hanging by a thread that comes across from the original from time time. But the didn't.

That would have to wait for Entertprise, the best of the Star Trek series since the original in my mind. The one which really seems to present humans on the edge of discovery. Enterprise is in many ways, what I hoped Voyager would be.

Rip Off

Fantastic Four Fan 4ever said...

I really liked Voyager because it had many different good characters. I missed the departure of Kes and thought she should have remained on the show. However, the scripts became variations on what was done before. Voyager did bring back the Borg in a big way with Seven of Nine. I did like the character and was glad she didn’t take over the show. The Borg were utilized more in this show and I am glad they did come back. The only drawback to this show was that there could have been more of a romance between Chakotay and Janeway. During the last episode it was suggested that he would return his attention and develop a relationship with Seven of Nine. However that was in the last episode. I wish they had this relationship earlier in the show.

Kate Mulgrew in the lead role of Janeway was one of the best decisions Paramount ever made in casting. The actress originally set to portray the beloved captain was a mistake. Genevieve Bujold did not have her heart in the role and it showed. I saw the footage in the Voyager Season One box set. Rick Berman and his crew were right. They did need a new captain after that.

The show is still entertaining and when the box set are available retail at a reasonable price I might buy it and re-watch it again. I got the first season for twenty dollars at Wal Mart a few years back. The others were $40 each and I cannot and will not pay double and triple the price for a set that will in time come down to the under $20 price point someday. Although that wait will be long it will be worth it.

Fantastic Four Fan 4ever said...

Rick Berman said it best in the commentary about the former actress set to portray Captain Janeway. If they had been creating a feature film, Genevieve would have been the perfect performer. However, in television, her acting subtleties are not well served in the daily grind of production. She didn’t have the patience or long term commitment required for the long hours that is necessary to create a show.

david_b said...

William, Pat and Rip, I surmise you bring up the best points here.

Despite it's provocative premise, limited resources, fractions on the ship, etc.., it could have resulted in the best 'break-out-of-the-cushy-mold' action figure franchise mode and entertain with stark drama in the mold of 'Dagger in the Mind', 'Miri', etc. Like TAS, it could have utilized some well-respected scifi writers in the industry.

With Berman at the helm, it rested on franchise laurels and sold action figures.

What I regret the most is, like DS9 before it, it took nearly all the creative spark from Next Generation, saturated the already tired, bloated franchise, and kept most folks from giving 'Enterprise' a chance.

Hence my fondness of non-franchise, non-safe episodic story arcs of Babylon 5.

Bruce said...

I loved Deep Space Nine, but Voyager did nothing for me. It lacked the episodic storytelling and the darker tone that made DS9 so compelling.

I gave up on Voyager pretty quickly. I didn't find it bad so much as boring - the characters and the concept just didn't click with me.

William Preston said...

Though Jeri Ryan's outfit was ridiculous (the "pneumatic" emphasis aside, they stuck her in high heels, which made sense neither as a Borg or a crewmate), the actress brought strong acting chops to the role. Like T'Pol on Enterprise: yeah, the show (increasingly) emphasized her physique, but you could tell the actress was smart about how she played the role. (If we ever talk about Enterprise: that show had a much stronger cast.)

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