I’ve already said that of the shows I refer to as the NextGen Trek series—TNG, DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise—Star Trek: Voyager ranks in last place as of the conclusion of the third seasons of all four shows.
This sounds worse that it is, really. I ranked TNG in third place. All of the series except for Enterprise still have four seasons to go, and the rankings will change. I know that TNG gets even better, and I prefer to assume that Voyager will as well.
Aside from all that, someone had to be last, and that doesn’t necessarily equate to “bad.”
In fact, there was only a single episode in Voyager’s third season that I disliked, and that was Episode 3.11 “The Q and the Grey,” which was just sad, even though I normally like the Q episodes. I think I have a bias against Civil War episodes, the same as I do against the “Nazi Earth” trope.
This season immediately started out better than the previous two because the alien race, the Kazon, were finally left behind. They were never really interesting as adversaries, and that ridiculous orange skin and green hair combo made them look like Oompa-Loompas.
The Doctor continues to grow and develop during the season. During the eighth and ninth episodes of the season, “Future’s End, Part I & II,” the Doctor gains some independence through the use of a mobile emitter, which meant the Doctor could now move about freely and needn’t be confined to Sickbay. The Doctor also has his own Dr. Jeckyl/Mr. Hyde episode, in which tinkering with his personality programming causes the Doctor to develop a darker, sinister alter ego. Later in the season, The Doctor also creates his own holographic “family” so that he can experience more of a “real life.” He does, and it’s not all good.
B’Elanna Torres is another of my favorite Voyager characters, yet is mostly underutilized this season. She does play a strong role in Episode 3.16 “Blood Fever,” when Ensign Vorkik, a Vulcan crewmember, undergoes Pon farr, and his chemical imbalance also affects Torres. It was in this episode that we also saw the possibility of a Torres/Tom Paris romance happening. Up to this point, I thought Torres would end up with Chakotay.
Speaking of Tom Paris and Chakotay . . .Along with Harry Kim, these characters are rarely more than two-dimensional. Rarely more than just scenery dressing, to tell the truth. But, I still prefer these three to Neelix and Kes, who remain my least favorite characters on board. After our two resident lovebirds break up, Neelix becomes a little more bearable, but Kes never really does. Even her voice is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.
Tuvok remains another of my favorite characters. I still consider him the best Vulcan since Spock. Only, Tuvok doesn’t really get the spotlight much in the third season. I suppose “Flashback” counts as one Tuvok-centric episode, but I can’t name another off the top of my head. Tim Russ always does a fantastic job and elevates whatever material he’s given to act out, but he seems to be used most often as a utility player. Whenever the writers don’t know what to do, they throw Tuvok into a scene with a different character. I hope he’s given stories with more meat on them in the future episodes.
That leaves only Captain Kathryn Janeway to talk about. I still like her as a character. She’s earnest and curious, our first ship’s leader who’s also a scientist. She’s not necessarily the captain I would want to go into battle with, although she’s proven capable enough in this regard. She’s the captain I’d want to have help solve a problem or a crisis—such as being stranded 75 years away from home. “Sacred Ground” was a memorable Janeway episode, in which she has to undergo a spiritual quest to save Kes. She’s good and consistent in every episode, of course, even when she’s not the story lead. This season, she seems even more like a real person, more emotional (and I mean that in a positive, not sexist, way), and you get the feeling that she really cares about her crew. I still feel like she should be a featured player in more stories. Instead, the writers seem to love Harry Kim and Kes the Ocampa, and watching those two is about as exciting as watching paint dry.
The episodic nature of this show is one of the reasons it’s my least favorite so far. The overarching story is that Voyager and her crew are trying to get back home. And, while this is mentioned often, for much of the time it’s not much more than under-used characters asking, “Are we there yet?” Most of the individual episodes, while not stinkers, aren’t particularly memorable either. Leaving the Kazon behind was a great start, and as we end the season in Borg space, it seems like movement in the right direction. We’ll just have to see what the show does with it.
The eighth and ninth episodes of Season 3, which I’ve failed to mention before now, was the two-part “Future’s End” story. Yeah, the plot seemed like something that should have been on a Trek show where the characters were actually close to Earth, but it was a fun two episodes despite that. Ed Begley Jr. was the bad guy, and the episodes featured a young Sarah Silverman as a nerdy young woman who ends up helping our Starfleet heroes. Nothing in the story has any lasting results in the Voyager universe, of course, but it was fun nonetheless.
If the series doesn’t gain more in the way of serialized storytelling going forward, I can only hope for more fun episodes like this two-parter.