In a previous post, I wrote that the fourth season of Star Trek: Voyager was my least favorite Season 4 of TNG, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise—the shows I consider to be Next-Gen Era Trek series (although Enterprise comes a little later).
This doesn’t mean it’s bad television, or that I didn’t like it. It’s just my least favorite Trek series of the four so far. I have my reasons. And, I’ll share them with you.
First, let’s talk about what I’ve liked about this season.
I liked the addition of the character Seven of Nine. Jeri Ryan’s ex-Borg character introduces a new dynamic to the series, and, in many ways, becomes the Data of Voyager, as she’s trying to re-learn how to be human. Ms. Ryan is also a quite attractive lady, but I assure you that my interest in the character is more than prurient.
How Seven of Nine joined the cast was also interesting. The events of the previous season’s “Scorpion,” and this season’s debut “Scorpion II” had the crew of the Voyager actually forming a brief partnership with the Borg in order to defeat Species 8472. After Seven of Nine joins the crew, Janeway serves as her mentor and role model, and I found this interesting and, on many occasions, rather sweet. The Doctor also spends a lot of time with Seven, trying to teach her social skills.
I liked the subtraction of Kes from the cast. She and Neelix were always my least favorite characters on the show. Neelix is a bit easier to take after she leaves the series, and, although he’s my least favorite character even at the end of Season 4, I don’t wish him to disappear into the cornfield. I did wish that for Kes, and now she’s gone: You have been warned.
I liked the growing relationship between B’Elanna and Tom Paris. I had initially thought the series was aiming for a Torres/Chakotay hookup, but the relationship with Tom works for me and makes him a slightly more interesting character.
The ship gets closer to home this season, at least 10 years closer, a parting gift from Kes. And we get to meet new alien species such as the Hirogen and the Krenim. Sadly, there were no individual episodes that made my All-Time-Best Trek list. By the same token, there were none that I considered genuine stinkers either. “Middle-of-the-road” best describes this season, taken as a whole. While that is not a rave review, it’s far from a condemnation of the series.
I liken this season of Voyager to pizza. The worst pizza I ever had was still okay. And this was probably the best season of Star Trek: Voyager to date.
What’s wrong with this series?
That’s not as easy a question to answer as I would have once thought. On the surface, there’s nothing really wrong with it. It’s serviceable Trek. It’s safe and familiar, which are not bad things. But, it’s being safe and familiar that prevents Voyager from achieving greatness. The show strives to be more serialized, but it never really achieves this goal. Most of the episodes are okay but forgettable, including the episode entitled, ironically enough, “Unforgettable.”
There are memorable episodes, such as the two-parter “Year of Hell, Part I” and “Year of Hell, Part II,” which involves time travel, always a personal favorite. While Nazi-Earth episodes are usually among my least-favorite, I didn’t mind “The Killing Game” so much. Largely, this was because it was a holographic program instead of a time-travel/alternate history story, I think. “Living Witness” wasn’t just a good episode of Voyager; it was a good episode of Star Trek. Not quite good enough to get 4 stars from me, but pretty damn close.
Among my main complaints this season is the fact that Tuvok was sadly underused during the season. I think this may have been because Seven of Nine began to fill a lot of the story roles that he once would have. I also felt that there wasn’t as much character development for Captain Janeway as we had previously seen.
Chakotay, Harry Kim, Tom Paris, and Neelix continue to be on the junior varsity squad of the U.S.S. Voyager. These characters fulfill specific character roles in a given story, but little else. I would still rank B’Elanna Torres and Tuvok slightly higher than these four. But, the writers really love The Doctor and Seven of Nine. Janeway is all over the board, sometimes top-tier, sometimes afterthought.
When all is said and done, I still recommend this series. As part of Trek canon, it should be watched by all true Trekkies.
But, as an honest reviewer, I say this: If you have to miss one Trek series—or, like me, delay viewing it until a later date—this is the one I would nominate.