Even if you were one of the select few who enjoyed Voyager (and if so, welcome aboard), you have to admit that the show did come up with some stinkers from time to time. Since I’ve already done a run down of Voyager’s best ten episodes, the time has come to turn our attention to the bottom of the barrel, and examine the ten episodes we really could have done without.
Start talking about the worst Voyager episodes, and the first one that comes to mind is always Threshold. Just the other day, someone I’d never met before started talking about Voyager, and within minutes they were slagging off this episode.
The premise of Threshold is thus – ace pilot Tom Paris wants to make history by breaking the warp ten barrier, a theoretical maximum speed at which one is in every place in the universe simultaneously. His first warp ten flight is successful, but it has some unexpected side effects – namely that Tom starts rapidly ‘evolving’ into a lizard creature, even vomiting up his own tongue at one point. No, that isn’t how evolution works, but don’t get too outraged just yet – the worst is yet to come. For reasons unclear to everyone both in-show and at home, Tom kidnaps Janeway and takes them both on another warp ten flight. The net result of this is that they both turn into lizards, mate, and have baby lizard offspring.
Luckily for all concerned, The Doctor is able to reverse this process and it is never spoken of again, but for the viewers, the memories remain. Did that really just happen? Will the lizard kids be okay on the planet Voyager leaves them on? Why would warp ten do that to a person anyway? Were the writers on acid? Given the kind of pseudo-science we’re generally content to let Star Trek get away with, you know it must be bad when it’s all too ridiculous for us to swallow.
I decided it was a little harsh of me to put both Fair Haven episodes on this list, so I decided to just pick the one I liked least. The second of two episodes set in Tom’s 19th century Ireland holoprogram, Spirit Folk revisits the old holodeck malfunction storyline. The Fair Haven program has been running for so long that the holographic characters’ perceptual filters have started malfunctioning. They start noticing that the Voyager crew aren’t your average 19th century humans, and begin to suspect that they might be malicious Fae folk. What follows is a tired and laboured storyline filled with cod Irish accents and twee holodeck characters.
At least one good thing comes out of this episode, though – when it’s all over, the crew shut down the Fair Haven program and never use it again.
No episode called “The Fight” is likely to be any good, and this one certainly lives down to its name. Chakotay fears he’s going crazy after he starts hallucinating about being in the ring at a boxing match, but what he and the crew don’t know is that this is just an alien race’s way of making first contact.
Not only does this episode introduce Chakotay’s life long love of boxing from out of nowhere, but it relies far too heavily on boring dream sequences featuring him stepping into the ring. It may admirable to attempt to tackle the fear of inherited mental illness, but this episode hides its noble intent behind a thick veil of monotony.
Harry Kim is welcomed ‘home’ by a planet of beautiful alien women, who claim he is actually one of their kind. The young ensign is swiftly taken in, only later realising that these women are luring in men and harvesting their genetic material in order to breed the next generation. If you’re cringing just at reading that episode description, imagine watching it. Star Trek: The Animated Series did pretty much the same storyline back in 1973, and it’s not a plot that’s aged well.
After sitting through so many stupid Ferengi episodes in DS9, you might think that being stranded in the Delta Quadrant would keep Voyager safe from that particular trope. Not so – for TNG fans will recall that in The Price, the Barzan wormhole stranded a pair of Ferengi in the Delta Quadrant.
False Profits follows up on those two Ferengi, who have established themselves as divine rulers of a developing society, encouraging the worship of profit above all else. Naturally, Voyager decides to intervene, but does so in such a feeble and cack-handed way that it casts doubts on the competence of Starfleet’s finest. All in all, quite painful to watch.
Speaking of stupid Ferengi episodes, we encounter them again in this episode from season seven. By this point, Voyager is in regular contact with the Alpha Quadrant, and they are delighted to receive a datastream containing a holographic version of Lieutenant Barclay, who claims that he has a way to get the ship home. In actual fact, it’s all a Ferengi plot to steal Seven of Nine’s nanoprobes, a stupid storyline that is only made worse by the fact that it reveals that Starfleet is still utterly terrible at security.
Janeway gets to go all action hero in this episode, which would be no terrible thing in itself, if not for the nature of her adversary – giant CG viruses. These enemies become increasingly bigger over the course of the episode, leading to special effects that really haven’t stood the test of time. Yes, I have a bit of a sneaky fondness for this episode, but even I can’t defend it as being in any way a fine hour of television.
I used to like this episode, but upon this rewatch, the scales fell from my eyes and I saw it for what it really was – acting at its hammiest. The Doctor has modified his program by incorporating personality elements from some of the great minds of history, but unfortunately their hidden dark sides combine to form a murderous alter ego. Robert Picardo is by no means a bad actor, but even he can’t elevate this script from the realms of the cringe-worthy.
The Q and the Grey
Although I was initially uncertain as to whether this episode was quite bad enough to warrant a spot in the worst ten, I ultimately decided to include it here for two reasons. The episode begins with Q deciding he wants a child, and that Captain Janeway should be the ‘lucky’ mother of his offspring. Obviously, the whole sequence is played for laughs, but I can’t help feeling that it’s problematic to have an omnipotent being pursuing a woman who would be powerless to stop him if he decided to rape or impregnate her.
The remainder of the episode takes place within the Q continuum, where a civil war has broken out. As mere humans, our limited perceptions perceive this as the American Civil War, leading to some tiresome scenes that only end when the Voyager crew get their hands on some Q weapons. Wait – is this how the Continuum really works? Do we really want to spend time thinking about it? Can Q just go away already?
Once Upon a Time
Finally, we come to an episode that adds absolutely nothing to either the series or the franchise. Samantha Wildman is MIA, and Neelix has been left to look after her daughter Naomi. Naomi is missing her mother, but Neelix is determined to shield her from a potentially harsh reality, and instead tries to distract her with a holodeck program designed for children. Said program is so twee and saccharine that just watching this episode will make you want to wash your mouth out with a strong black coffee. If you thought the average Neelix episode was pretty bad, then just wait until you see this episode.