The Cynics Corner

Star Trek: Voyager

The Fourth Season in Review

by David E. Sluss

24 May 1998

 
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Another season of Voyager has come and gone, and it's time to discuss it as a whole, and to present the First Annual Cy Awards!

THE BOTTOM LINE: Overall, I'd characterize this season as mediocre. It's better than the third season, to be sure, with fewer real howlers, and a few more substantive episodes. But overall, there weren't many memorable shows, and quite a few that were as shallow as a puddle.

SEASON CYNICS CORNER RATING: 6.0 (D-)

 

PART I: AUTOPSIES OF INDIVIDUAL EPISODES

At this point, I'll make a few quick remarks about each of this season's episodes, including a Cynics Corner Rating for each of them (an original and final rating for those which I reviewed during the course of the season).

 

"SCORPION, PART II": Like just about every Star Trek cliffhanger, this one proved to be something of a letdown, though less of one than in most cases. The introduction of Seven of Nine worked more smoothly than almost anoyone could have hoped. The biggest problem I have is that Species 8472 was seriously wimpified (Eunuch of the Year, in fact), compared to the first part of "Scorpion."; such is the danger of introducing "ultimate villains."

Cynics Corner Rating: 7.5 (up from 6.5)

 

"THE GIFT": This is a seriously underrated episode, in my view. The parallel story of Kes' ascension to a higher form of life, and Seven of Nine's descent to a lower form of life is indicative of some real thought going into the script, and represents one of the few "A/B story" episodes in which both stories hold their weight and complement one another. I still find Janeway's attitude toward's Seven to be incredibly cavalier, and Kes' ultimate transformation is cornball in the extreme, but this show remains, for me, a high point of the season. Besides, the 10,000 LY jump meant a certain end to the Kazon, the Vidiians and that ilk, and that has to count for something, even if it occasionally seemed to be forgotten later in the season.

Cynics Corner Rating 8.0 (up from 7.5)

 

"DAY OF HONOR": a.k.a. "Day of Slumber." A rather predictable and cliched episode, this show serves as yet another example of Trek's juvenile treatment of relationships. Pass.

Cynics Corner Rating: 5.0 (down from 5.5)

 

"NEMESIS": A decent idea sabotaged by terrible acting by the guest stars, by standard Trek cliches ("It was all a simulation!"), and by standard science fiction cliches ("The ugly aliens are the good guys, whilst the humans are eeevil!"). Pass.

Cynics Corner Rating: 4.5 (down from 5.0)

 

"REVULSION": An episode filled with standard horror pranks, but with enough decent acting and dialogue to make it somewhat watchable.

Cynics Corner Rating: 5.5 (down from 5.7)

 

"THE RAVEN": "Riven" with plot holes and contrivances (like how the Raven made it to the Delta Quadrant in the first place) and relying too heavily on coinicidence (it seems there's a host of artifacts from the Alpha Quadrant out in the Delta Quadrant, all of which are directly on Voyager's flight path), this episode is salvaged at least partially by decent performances, largely by Jeri Ryan, who begins to show that she isn't just a bimbo, despite the boob suit and stiletto heels in which she is attired.

Cynics Corner Rating: 6.0 (previously unrated)

 

"SCIENTIFIC METHOD": Proving that the word "scientific" should not even be mentioned with Voyager, this episode features appalling "fun with DNA" pseudo-science, and lifts from at least half a dozen old Next Generation episodes. Pass.

Cynics Corner Rating: 3.0 (down from 3.9)

 

"YEAR OF HELL, PART I": As I began viewing a two-parter with its own built-in reset button, the biggest question for me was: Why can't anything interesting happen in Voyager's real timeline? In the alternate timeline we saw loss of morale, significant crew losses, irreversable damage to the ship, all of which, it seems, would logically be a part of Voyager's "real experience," but aren't. Kurtwood Smith delivers a complex performance as the Krenim leader, making him less of a villain and more of a tragic figure. The episode proves fun to watch, though not deep, to be sure.

Cynics Corner Rating: 7.0 (unchanged)

 

"YEAR OF HELL, PART II": As everyone knew going in, the Extra-Large Reset Button got a big hit in this episode. We got some good character work for Chakotay (for probably the only time this season), as he is tempted by the power of the Krenim Time-Fixer-Upper, but we also got heaping quantities of ridiculous technobabble and lucky guesses (like Janeway knowing that blowing up the Krenim Time-Fixer-Upper would restore the original timeline.

Cynics Corner Rating: 6.9 (unchanged)

 

"RANDOM THOUGHTS": An interesting concept, illegal trade in contraband thoughts, can be found within this story. Unfortunately, it is surrounded by one of the standard standard Trek "idiot plots" in which a crew member violates an unusual law on a backwater world, and faces a cruel and unusual punishment. Standard fare.

Cynics Corner Rating: 5.2 (previously unrated)

 

"CONCERNING FLIGHT": a.k.a. "Concerning Blight." A terrible episode featuring contrivance (like the seemingly random but convenient way the theft of the computer's main processor affects some systems but not others) and stupidity (like Janeway and DaVinci standing in the field to debate while they are being chased). I feel sympathy for poor John Rhys-Davies, but little else for this episode.

Cynics Corner Rating: 3.5 (down from 4.5)

 

"MORTAL COIL": a.k.a. "Mortals Soiled." An episode that opens an incredible Pandora's Box. Seven's ability to reanimate the dead opens a bigger can of worms than just about anything since Next Generation's Incredible De-Aging Transporter. Still, the episode managed a minor miracle, namely making Neelix tolerable, which has to count for something.

Cynics Corner Rating: 6.5 (previously unrated)

 

"WAKING MOMENTS": A poor excuse to engage in "bending reality" yet again, this episode features an interesting notion, a race that exists only in dreams, but forgets to give them anything but the most vague of motivations in attacking Voyager's crew, and instead gives us something of a retread of the "directed dreaming" in Next Generation's "Night Terrors." Pass.

Cynics Corner Rating: 5.0 (previously unrated)

 

"MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE": A pivotal episode which sets up the remainder of the fourth season, and has genuine and irreversable consequences, this show features genuine humor and great performances from Robert Picardo and guest star Andy Dick. One of the fourth season "keepers" (no, not the B5 kind)

Cynics Corner Rating: 8.0 (previously unrated)

 

"HUNTERS": This is a generally satisfactory episode, although it is saddled with a "crisis" involving the less than compelling Hirogen. We get to see some crew angst, albeit roughly three years too late, a reminder that some of the crew are Maquis (R.I.P), and some other other decent character characterization. The contrived <tech> way in which the alien array is destroyed, thus putting Voyager out of touch with Starfleet, is a big load of bull, of course, but I suppose it had to be done.

Cynics Corner Rating: 7.5 (previously unrated)

 

"PREY": A good episode, which showcases Tony Todd delivering the only convincing Hirogen performance of the entire Hirogen mini-arc. Species 8472's return is tolerable (even though: 1) Someone apparently forgot that the 8472 incursion took place 10000 light years back, thanks to Kes' "gift"; and 2) We see yet another instance of a "villain race" rehabilitated). Seven of Nine shines as well (again), once again taking a hard choice out of Janeway's hands.

Cynics Corner Rating: 7.8 (previously unrated)

 

"RETROSPECT": This is a nice episode, which actually manages to surprise by turning a standard Trekian cliche on its head; for once the seedy alien turns out to be innocent. More good character work for Seven of Nine, as well.

Cynics Corner Rating: 8.0 (previously unrated)

 

"THE KILLING GAME, PART I": Turn off your brain, and you can have fun with this show.

Cynics Corner Rating: 6.5 (previously unrated)

 

"THE KILLING GAME, PART II": Ditto, only moreso.

Cynics Corner Rating: 6.0 (previously unrated)

 

"VIS A VIS": Standard "identity thief" plot, with standard Trekian DNA pranks. Pass.

Cynics Corner Rating: 5.0 (previously unrated)

 

"THE OMEGA DIRECTIVE": a.k.a. "The Magnesia Directive." An episode that demonstrates a profound lack of thought. We have the "mismatched" alien race, which has advanced looking labs and other <tech> but is still prewarp. And worse, we have an "ending" in which, despite the danger Magnesia Particles supposedly represent, no steps are taken to prevent the alien race from making more of them. Only the novelty of Seven's "spiritual journey" in seeking the "perfection" of the Magnesia Particle, lifts this episode above the "standard fare" level.

Cynics Corner Rating: 6.0 (down from 6.5)

 

"UNFORGETTABLE": Forgettable.

Cynics Corner Rating: 3.5 (previously unrated)

 

"LIVING WITNESS": a.k.a. "Living Witless." A powerful, if somewhat unoriginal, episode, which once again makes me wonder why we can't have anything interesting happen on the "real" Voyager. Robert Picardo is excellent as always.

Cynics Corner Rating: 8.0 (up from 7.5)

 

"DEMON": a.k.a. "DumbOne." Appalling science, unlikely tech (like space suits that keep people alive for hours after the oxygen runs out), character stupidity, and a laughable performance by Garrett Wang as the Clone totally "sink" this show.

Cynics Corner Rating: 1.0 (down from 2.0)

 

"ONE": a.k.a. "None." Deadly dull. Jeri Ryan is a good actress but she can't hold up this plodding plot.

Cynics Corner Rating: 6.0 (unchanged)

 

"HOPE AND FEAR": An enjoyable episode, despite some contrivances and coincidences.

Cynics Corner Rating: 8.0 (unchanged)

 

PART II: THE CY AWARDS FOR THE FOURTH SEASON OF STAR TREK: VOYAGER

The audience waits in hushed anticipation. The envelopes please!

BEST GUEST STAR OF THE YEAR: A two-way tie, between Kurtwood Smith for "Year of Hell, Part II" and Tony Todd for "Prey"

WORST GUEST STAR OF THE YEAR: Pick one from "Nemesis" and you'll have a winner (well, not a winner, but...)

UNMISSED GUEST STAR OF THE YEAR: John DeLancie. I doubt anyone missed not having a "Q Show" this year, not after the ruination of the Q concept in "The Q and The Grey" last year.

BIGGEST (GOOD) SURPRISE OF THE YEAR: Seven of Nine turned out to be a better character than virtually anyone suspected. It was easy to mock the character and the motivations for her introduction at first, what with the heels and skintight outfits, but Jeri Ryan (and, yes, the much-maligned writing staff) created a complex and fascinating character, so strong that many of the other characters (Kim, Chakotay, Neelix) seemed to have virtually vanished this year. So while the motivations behind the creation of the character are still suspect, the character herself has become a welcome addition to the show.

BIGGEST (BAD) SURPRISE OF THE YEAR: Star Trek's villain races have been emasculated, weekened, and made to be sympathetic many times in the past, but never so quickly and never to such a great extent as Species 8472 was this season. In "Scorpion (Part I)," 8472 seemed unstoppable, destroying innumerable Borg cubes and an entire planet. By the time "Scorpion, Part II" rolled around, they could barely blow up one Borg cube. As of "Prey," they were cowering in hallways. How the mighty have fallen.

BEST ACTOR: Robert Picardo (for the season), an amazing performer who can salvage just about any script. He is Voyager's version of Colm Meaney.

WORST ACTOR: Garrett Wang, for "Demon," although most any episode in which he has dialogue will do. And damn "People" magazine anyway. If Rumor Central is correct, it's their fault that he wasn't fired after last season.

BEST ACTRESS: Jeri Ryan (for the season). As noted above, she turned a character that could have been nothing but eye-candy into one of the most interesting and complex aspect of the series. A miracle worker.

WORST ACTRESS: Jennifer Lien, for "Scorpion, Part II," in a robotic cameo performance that could have been CGI-ed in. (I know it seems against the rules, since Lien wasn't a regular. but 1) I make the rules and 2) It was her or Mulgrew or Dawson, neither of whom did all that badly).

 

And now for the major categories:

BIGGEST PANDORA'S BOX OF THE YEAR: The nominees are:

  • Seven's recall of everything the Borg collective knows ("Day of Honor"). This means, of course, that Seven should be able to come up with <tech> to solve just about anything. As I warned in the CCR of "Day of Slumber," this could turn out to be like Batman's infinite utility belt ("Only one chance in a million to save our necks, Boy Wonder.").
  • Seven's ability to restore the dead ("Mortal Coil"). This should mean, that any crew member who dies, but isn't vaporized, should be restorable. (Of course in at least one case, in "One," a crewperson died, of boredom possibly, and no mention was made of this astounding ability.)
  • The ability to back up the Doctor ("Living Witness"). This means that the Doctor can be sent on any suicide mission without any risk to himself.
  • Seven's ability to adapt and walk through forcefields ("Hope and Fear"). The fact that Seven still has enough Borg nanoprobes to accomplish this makes you wonder what other Borgisms she can perform, like repelling phaser fire or surviving unprotected in vacuum.
  • The experimental quantum slipstream engine ("Hope and Fear"). Despite some <tech> problems it seemed to work well, and even used sparingly, it seems like it could shorten Voyager's journey to just a couple of years.

And the winner is... This is an easy call: Seven's ability to raise the dead. But it looks like it wound up on the "Continuity Room Floor," and so the award may have to be rescinded.

 

WORST RESET BUTTON OF THE YEAR: The nominees are:

  • "Nemesis" Chakotay says he'll need time to get over his brainwashing. Yeah; a week.
  • "Year of Hell, Part II" A clever use of the innovative built-in reset button.
  • "Mortal Coil" Neelix goes from dead to alive to suicidally depressed with no ill effect.
  • "The Killing Game, Part II" Another instance of the ship taking terrible damage with no repercussions at all.
  • "Unforgettable" Another instance of the built-in reset button, in which the characters forget about the events of the episode because the alien of the week makes them forget.

And the winner is... A tough call between the two built-in resets, but I think I'll have to go with "Unforgettable."

 

WORST SCIENCE OF THE YEAR: Aw, hell, why even list nominees? The clear winner is "Demon." From the inability to find "deuterium" to the idea that DNA contains memories, to the idea that all you'd have to change about a human being so that he can survive 500K temperatures are the lungs, the ignorance of and contempt for science displayed by this episode is appalling, even by Voyager standards.

 

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for, and our final two categories this evening...

WORST EPISODE OF THE YEAR: The nominees are:

And the "winner" is... no surprise, if you've read my Autopsies in Part I; there is one episode with a rating lower than all the others: "Demon." Congratulations to everyone involved.

 

BEST EPISODE OF THE YEAR: The nominees are:

And the winner is... less obvious, since all of them were assigned a score of 8.0. But I am going with "Message in a Bottle," for serving as the linchpin for the entire season, setting up the Hirogen arc, the Starfleet message, and Janeway's increasing conflict with Seven of Nine, and doing it with style.
  

Next: Season 5 Review That's all, folks. See you next season!

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