Star Trek Voyager had its high points and its low points. Those who dislike the series would argue that it was all a low point, but I remain unashamed in my enjoyment of Voyager as a whole. What follows are ten times where the fourth member of the Star Trek family delivered some excellent television.
At the end of the fifth season, Voyager discovered that it wasn’t the only Federation ship in the Delta Quadrant – the science vessel USS Equinox had also been pulled across the galaxy by the Caretaker. But where Voyager had generally come out on top in most of its encounters, Equinox had really suffered, to the extent that its crew and captain were willing to do anything to get home.
Whilst the ‘previously unmentioned second ship’ is hardly a new idea, Voyager does it well, with the Equinox headed up by the charismatic Rudy Ransom. Where Voyager has largely held onto its Starfleet morality, Equinox shows a stark contrast, a bunch of desperate people who have taken extreme measures to survive. Everyone brings their all to the acting in this two-parter, and whilst I remain uneasy about Janeway’s rather extreme treatment of Lessing in part two, overall I really enjoy this instalment.
Voyager’s journey home takes it through the territory of the Devore Imperium, a xenophobic regime with a particular hatred of telepaths. With the ship regularly subjected to invasive inspections, Janeway has no choice but to hide the telepathic crew members – plus a bunch of fugitives – in increasingly dangerous periods of transporter suspension.
Counterpoint is really Janeway at her best, as she finds an equal and adversary in the form of Devore Inspector Kashyk. The interplay between these two characters is excellent, culminating in a tense finale where it seems as if Kashyk has won the day by betraying Janeway’s trust – only for us to realise that Janeway was one step ahead of him all the time. A splendid episode indeed.
Having hit a high note with Counterpoint, Voyager continued to deliver by immediately offering up another excellent episode in the form of Latent Image. When The Doctor decides to do deep body scans of the crew with his holographic camera, he discovers that he once did surgery on Harry Kim – a surgery that he doesn’t remember. But as The Doctor tries to uncover the truth, he comes to a disturbing conclusion – his memories were deleted by none other then Captain Janeway.
Robert Picardo can always be relied upon to deliver some good acting, and it is rarely more evident than in Latent Image. What starts as a mystery turns into a moral dilemma, as The Doctor is forced to face up to a decision that almost broke the logic of his programming. The scene in the mess hall where The Doctor’s distress and anger slowly but surely take hold, is one of Voyager’s finest moments.
When I was researching other people’s best and worst Voyager episodes in preparation for this article, I was surprised to find Endgame on lots of “worst episode” lists. Whilst I can somewhat understand this, as there are plenty of nitpicks to be had, I still really enjoy Voyager’s finale.
We begin on the tenth anniversary of Voyager’s arrival home after twenty-three years in the Delta Quadrant, a journey that cost Chakotay and Seven their lives, and Tuvok his sanity. Desperate to create a timeline where her friends survived, Admiral Janeway goes back to the seventh year of Voyager’s journey, in the hopes of making her past self take a risky decision that could get the ship home sooner.
What unfolds is an action-packed two hours, filled with Borg, characters old and new, and a rare instance of ‘double Janeway’. Alice Krige even returns to reprise the role of the Borg Queen for a final showdown against Janeway and Voyager. Sit back and enjoy the ride – and don’t think too much about the temporal shenanigans.
Seven hundred years after Voyager visited their planet, the Vaskans and Kyrians have a rather distorted view of history. An interactive exhibit at the Kyrian Museum of Heritage portrays Voyager as a heartless and aggressive power who instigated a bloody confrontation between the two people. But when the museum’s curator reactivates a backup of The Doctor, he learns that his people’s history is not quite what he thought it was.
Living Witness is a truly excellent episode. Not only does it give us plenty to think about when it comes to the accuracy of historical accounts and records, but it brings us an amazing alternate version of Voyager. Evil Voyager is a real treat, featuring a harsh and amoral dominatrix Janeway in charge of a violent, thuggish crew, a sadistic Doctor, and a squadron of Borg drones. If there was an entire series of evil Voyager, I would watch it.
The prequel to this episode, Demon, wasn’t great, but its existence can be forgiven for bringing us the brilliant Course: Oblivion. Everything seems great aboard Voyager – not only have Tom and B’Elanna just tied the knot, but a new enhancement to the warp drive could get them home within a couple of years. But then the ship and crew start losing structural and cellular integrity, and the truth emerges – this isn’t even the real Voyager.
From then on, the episode becomes a race against time, as the copy of Voyager tries desperately to save themselves – only to disintegrate into nothingness mere hours before catching up with the real Voyager. It’s a tragic story, and one that makes you really feel for characters who aren’t even the real Voyager crew. One of the few episodes I could possibly watch more than once in a day.
Worst Case Scenario
A holoprogram depicting a Maquis insurrection aboard Voyager becomes popular among the crew – but when Tuvok and Paris try to write a conclusion to the story, they discover that Seska has booby trapped the program with her own modifications.
What follows is one of the very few good holodeck episodes – not only is the Maquis ‘Insurrection Alpha’ program compelling in its own right, but the episode remains good even after the holodeckmalfunctions. And even though I wasn’t a massive fan of Seska when she was a regular recurring character, she puts in a good performance here. A rare example of a truly fun holodeck romp.
Blink of an Eye
Voyager becomes trapped in orbit of a planet where time passes much faster on the surface, leading to the rise and development of a civilisation for whom the ‘sky ship’ is a constant and enduring presence.
Whilst Blink of the Eye might not stand up to close scrutiny on the science front, it is nonetheless a very good episode. We get to see an entire civilisation develop over the course of an episode, from a primitive culture who worship Voyager as a godlike being, to one advanced enough to rescue Voyager from its predicament. It’s a unique and memorable experience, both for us and the Voyager crew, and one that keeps the viewer engaged throughout.
Year of Hell
In this two-parter, Voyager gets caught up in one man’s attempt to alter the timeline to restore his people’s empire – by erasing other races from history. First hinted at in season three’s ‘Before and After’, Voyager’s year of hell takes shape in season four, featuring temporal antics aplenty, and Voyager’s defiant struggle against its adversaries. Janeway is at her most determined here, not giving up even at the very last. Never underestimate Janeway’s abilities to both survive death, and reset the timeline.
Before Endgame, there was Timeless, a very similar story but good in its own right. Timeless starts in a future where an experimental quantum slipstream drive enables Chakotay and Harry to get home in the Delta Flyer – at the expense of Voyager and the rest of the crew. Fifteen years later, Harry and Chakotay are determined to undo that mistake, even if it means defying the will of Starfleet and a certain Captain Geordi LaForge.
From the opening reveal of Voyager trapped under a layer of ice, to a bumpy ride through a quantum slipstream, this is one episode you won’t want to miss. As well as being another strong time travel episode, Timeless is one of those rare examples of Harry Kim being something other than bland, as we get to see his embittered and cynical future self. Wracked with guilt over letting his friends die because of his overconfidence, Harry displays a depth of emotion and character we rarely see from him.