The Cynics Corner

Star Trek: Voyager

The Fifth Season in Review

by David E. Sluss

12 June 1999

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Another season has come and gone, and the time has come to bash -- ah -- that is assess the season as a whole.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Consistently mediocre bordering on bad. This is contrasted with the fourth season, which also averaged as mediocre, but had wild swings in quality, with several very good episodes, and a lot of total dogs. This season featured fewer outstanding episodes and fewer mutts, but a lot in the so what? category.




In this section, I'll make a few comments about each episode, and assign each a Cynics Corner Rating, which in some cases has changed from the rating I gave when I first reviewed the episodes. 


"NIGHT": Tolerable fare, though nothing special, particularly since it's an apparent recycling of the B-Story of TNG's "Final Mission." There's no subtlety whatsoever in the characterization of the Mylar (in their first, but, unfortunately not last appearance), or in the environmental issues raised: The odious Emck is a scumbag polluter, the Voyager tree-huggers are predictably disgusted, and that's that.

Cynics Corner Rating: 7.0 (unchanged)


"DRONE": A relative high point of the season, despite the been-there/done-that feel of the story, and the multiple suspensions of disbelief required to accept One's creation, to say nothing of the unexplained restoration of The Doctor's holo-emitter. Kudos to Jeri Ryan and guest-star J. Paul Boehmer for standout performances.

Cynics Corner Rating: 8.0 (up from 7.5)


"EXTREME RISK": An "extreme" case of retro-characterization for Torres, of and Too-Little-Too-Lateism with regard to the Maquis issue. Standard fare.

Cynics Corner Rating: 6.0 (unchanged)


"IN THE FLESH": Well-executed to an extent, but based on ideas that are questionable at best, such as "Yalta" Janeway giving up the farm in negotiations with Species 8472, who, despite homespun homilies from Chief Boothby, never proved themselves trustworthy. Other problems include bizarro science and contrivances such as Seven's sudden (and convenient) inability to replicate her nano-probes.

Cynics Corner Rating: 6.5 (up from 6.0)


"ONCE UPON A TIME": Harmless fluff. Scarlett Pomers as Naomi manages to not annoy The Cynic, and that's a minor miracle. This changed later in the season, as Wesley-ization took over the character, but I liked her here. The story, such as it is, is hurt by plotholes, such as Naomi's Invisible Commbadge, and the "Now the cavern is filled with toxic gas, now it isn't" gaffe.

Cynics Corner Rating: 6.5 (down from 7.0)


"TIMELESS": Strangely dull for a Voyager "event show" which are usually interesting to watch, even when they aren't especially intelligent. This episode just sort of happens (or, rather, doesn't happen after the big hit of the reset button). Oddities include a decent performance by Garrett Wang and the crew's stupidity in realizing that if the Quantum Shitstream drive is safe to use for 17 seconds and 10,000 light years at a time, then they can use it in five or six quick bursts to get home.

Cynics Corner Rating: 6.5 (up from 5.5)


"INFINITE REGRESS": A really poor concept, "Borg Multiple Personality Syndrome," salvaged from total dog-hood by Jeri Ryan. But inconsistencies with regard to the manner in which the "vinculum" broadcasts (sometimes proximity matters, sometimes it doesn't) hurts the show, as does the lack of closure with regard to the Shower Curtain Men's plan to infect the Borg Collective; the question of "Did it work or didn't it?" is only answered indirectly by the Borg's presence later in the season.

Cynics Corner Rating: 6.5 (unchanged)


"NOTHING HUMAN": Contrived, preachy, and hypocritical. The Crell Moset hologram is a walking contrivance, ineptly acted by David Clennon. And isn't it convenient that the only time we ever see a Bajoran crewman is the day there's a Cardassian war criminal being simulated in sickbay?

Cynics Corner Rating: 4.0 (unchanged)


"THIRTY DAYS": "Old salt" Tom Paris gets a bite at the retro-characterization apple. Nothing special.

Cynics Corner Rating: 6.5 (unchanged)


"COUNTERPOINT": A surprisingly good episode, with Captain and crew coming across as competent and well-prepared, for a change. If the Devore inspector Ketchup had been portrayed by a better actor than Mark Harelik, like, say, someone pulled off the street, this episode would have been near flawless.

Cynics Corner Rating: 8.0 (unchanged)


"LATENT IMAGE": A junior officer that everyone knew and loved was retroactively inserted into Voyager's continuity for what reason? To justify Picardo's bizarre and over-the-top performance in this episode's closing act? No thanks...

Cynics Corner Rating: 6.0 (unchanged)


"BRIDE OF CHAOTICA!": Complete schlock, but then that was apparently the goal. But it makes writing gaffes, such as the inconsistencies as to what "Queen Arachnia's" job was supposed to be, and oddities like the costuming of the photonic aliens, all the more noticeable.

Cynics Corner Rating: 6.5 (unchanged)


"GRAVITY": Not my cup of tea. And I found Noss to be absolutely intolerable.

Cynics Corner Rating: 5.0 (unchanged)


"BLISS": A dumb idea based on a mish-mash of a bunch of old episodes, this show proves to be dull, though well-acted. Moby Dick is apparently the only book Star Trek writers have ever read the Cliffs Notes for.

Cynics Corner Rating: 6.0 (unchanged)


"DARK FRONTIER": A nicely-wrapped package, but inside is a big lump of coal, consisting of unforgivable continuity gaffes and gross ineptitude by the Borg, not to mention some Wesley-ization of Naomi.

Cynics Corner Rating: 6.0 (up from 5.0)


"THE DISEASE": Voyager avoided total disaster until this episode. There is little, if anything, of value here.

Cynics Corner Rating: 1.5 (unchanged)


"COURSE: OBLIVION": Another "alternate" crew show, in which we see yet again how good Voyager could be if the writers only had the balls to use the premise of the show and to allow the characters and their situation to change and evolve. This fake crew was twice as interesting as the real one, and that's just sad.

Cynics Corner Rating: 8.0 (up from 7.7)


"THE FIGHT": Voyager takes a dive. 'Nuff said.

Cynics Corner Rating: 1.5 (down from 2.5)


"THINK TANK": A decent outing, with contrivances kept to a minimum, though I felt Jason Alexander was miscast. Kudos for the attempt to portray alien aliens for a change.

Cynics Corner Rating: 7.5 (up from 6.7)


"JUGGERNAUT": It starts with the unexplained presence of the Mylar 20,000 light years away from their last known position, and goes downhill from there. Even male-demographic tricks like Torres' stripdowns can't save it.

Cynics Corner Rating: 6.0 (unchanged)


"SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME": Pure fluff, with a few bits of funny dialogue thrown in. Jeri Ryan turns in some good work, though I felt Robert Picardo was off in certain scenes. The fact that this plot mimics DS9's Kira/Odo shenanigans so closely doesn't help.

Cynics Corner rating: 6.5 (up from 6.2)


"11:59": There's nothing howlingly bad here, but was there a point, other than the somewhat disturbing moral that "Man will give up his principles for the love of Woman?"

Cynics Corner Rating: 6.5 (down from 6.8)


"RELATIVITY": Braga must have loved this. All the plotholes and inconsistencies can be written off as time paradoxes. Still, even though it doesn't make a damned bit of sense, there's an element of madcap fun here.

Cynics Corner Rating: 7.5 (up from 7.0)


"WARHEAD": Robert Picardo makes this episode watchable, but there's a lot here that doesn't make sense, like why anyone would want a sentient bomb in the first place.

Cynics Corner Rating: 7.0 (unchanged)


"EQUINOX": A good idea botched in execution. Questions like how Equinox's flight path could have differed so much from Voyagers are never answered, and filler, like Naomi Wildman's appearance and Max's reunion with Torres, abounds.

Cynics Corner Rating: 7.0 (up from 6.5)



The ballots have been counted, and the audience awaits the results with bated breath. The envelopes, please!


WORST "DEMON" REFERENCE OF THE YEAR: As the worst episode of the fourth season, and one of the worst of the series, you'd think the writers would avoid any reference to that show. Nevertheless, a number of episodes this year did the unthinkable. The nominees are:

  • "Night": In which the infamous deuterium shortage is mentioned.
  • "Bliss": In which the infamous deuterium shortage is mentioned.
  • "Course: Oblivion": A sequel(!) to that awful episode in which some of the most cornball exposition ever is used in reference to the Demon planet.

And the winner is... "Course: Oblivion."


RECYCLING OF THE YEAR: Re-use of plotlines and story elements from past Star Trek episodes is a time-honored tradition, and several episodes this season did that tradition justice. The nominees are:

  • "Night": Interstellar polluters (Next Generation's "Final Mission").
  • "Drone": Individual Borg (Next Generation's "I, Borg"); Enemy child potty-trained by the good guys (Deep Space Nine's "The Abandoned").
  • "Bride of Chaotica!": Photonic aliens in the holodeck (Voyager's "Heroes and Demons"; aliens live in subspace anomalies (Next Generation's "The Loss," for instance).
  • "Bliss": Giant space creature eats ships (the original series' "The Doomsday Machine"); Seven's the only one functional on the ship (Voyager's "One").
  • "Someone To Watch Over Me": Non-human character falls for a beautiful, if sometimes rude, female character who wears absurdly tight spandex. He hasn't the guts to tell her, and so he keeps his feelings under wraps. But his secret is discovered by someone who annoys him. Too cowardly to act in person, he rehearses on the holodeck. Songs are sung (various Deep Space Nine episodes, culminating in "His Way").

And the winner is... "Someone To Watch Over Me."


CONTRIVANCE OF THE YEAR: You gotta love 'em, and many Voyager stories would be up the proverbial crick without them. The nominees are:

  • "Drone": The transporter malfunctions, causing exactly one problem: the fusion of Doc's holo-emitter and Seven's nanoprobes
  • "Nothing Human": The Crell Moset hologram. The manner in which he functions and even the need to create him are suspect.
  • "Dark Frontier": Oops! Can't replicate the transwarp coil (or steal more than one of them).
  • "The Disease": The alien ship was designed as an all-for-one and one-for-all vessel. So why does each room have its own set of rockets?
  • "Course: Oblivion": Everyone has a "small galaxy" story to tell, but the fake Voyager crew can't tell theirs, since they dissolved within five minutes of reaching the real Voyager.

And the winner is... "Nothing Human."


RESET BUTTON OF THE YEAR: The most important device in the Star Trek Universe, this technology ensures that nothing ever changes permanently and that the status quo is maintained at all times -- and timelines <cue canned laughter>. The nominees are:

  • "Night": Both engines are offline, and the repairs occur by magic.
  • "Drone": The Doc's holoemitter is removed from One's head and restored to its original function... somehow.
  • "Timeless": A classic built-in reset button tale.
  • "Latent Image": The Doctor Gets Over It... offscreen.
  • "Bliss": The hull is demolecularized, but it remolecularlized itself offscreen.

And the winner is... "Drone."


RETRO-CHARACTERIZATION OF THE YEAR: It's sometimes necessary to make a character into something he or she is not in order to make a story work. These nominees go the extra mile:

  • B'Elanna Torres in "Extreme Risk": I've been engaging in self-torture for eight months and no one noticed until now.
  • Tom Paris in "Thirty Days": I love the ocean so much that I don't have the heart to ever talk about it or simulate it in the holodeck.
  • Ensign Jetal in "Latent Image": I'm a character who has never been seen before but was an important part of the crew for years.
  • Chakotay in "The Fight": I'm an amateur boxer; that's why I act so punch-drunk all the time.
  • Tom Paris in "11:59": I kept my detailed knowledge of and interest in 20th century Mars missions a secret until I could use it to expose the Captain as a fraud.

And the winner is... "Old Salt" Tom Paris in "Thirty Days."


WELFARE RECIPIENT OF THE YEAR: Star Trek's Welfare Program does charitable work by placing actors in unnecessary roles, thus keeping them off public assistance. Let's recognize this important work. The nominees are:

And the winner is... Alexander Enberg; your mommy must be very proud.


MYSTERY OF THE YEAR: In some episodes, certain things are never explained, the theory being that if the viewers can't understand, they can't disagree. The nominees are:

  • "Extreme Risk": Why was it so important to retrieve that "multi-spatial probe" in the first place?
  • "Timeless": Why don't you just use the Shitstream drive in several safe, short, bursts?
  • "Infinite Regress": Well, did that damn thing work, or didn't it?
  • "Dark Frontier": How do I reconcile the Hansens' misadventure with previous history regarding the Borg?
  • "Warhead": Why do you want a bomb that can contemplate the meaning of life?

And the winner is... "Dark Frontier."


NEW GEOGRAPHY OF THE YEAR: Writer fiat allows one to redesign the geography of the galaxy at will. Let's look at the most creative uses of this technique in the fifth season:

  • "In the Flesh": Species 8472 is "from another galaxy." Since when is fluidic space another galaxy?
  • "Course: Oblivion": Even with super-duper warp drive, the fake crew's journey to the Alpha Quadrant and back doesn't square with any known measure of distance or time.
  • "Juggernaut": Oops! Forgot about those two 10000-light-year jumps.
  • "Equinox": If Voyager and Equinox started from the same place (the Caretaker's home), surely they'd have encountered some of the same species.

And the winner is... "Juggernaut"


WORST SCIENCE OF THE YEAR: The producer is telling me I don't have time to list all of the nominees, so I'll just announce the winner: The extra-bizarro DNA prank in "In the Flesh" in which the Doctor injected a dead body with goop, the dead body metabolized(!) the goop, and its DNA reverted to its natural 8472 form.


SPECIAL AWARD FOR MERCHANDIZING: We all know that merchandizing is where the real money is made, and so we congratulate the staff of Star Trek: Voyager for two noble attempts to sell merchandise: the Delta Flyer model, which debuted in "Extreme Risk," and the Flotter doll, which appeared in "Once Upon a Time."


SPECIAL VOYAGER CLICHE AWARD: There are a number of cliches that can be counted upon to spice up a Voyager episode, and many of them made appearances in the fifth season, including a couple of new ones:

And the winner is... In Media Res Teasers! Just remember: It's not innovative the twelfth time you use it! <cue canned applause>


WORST GUEST STAR: Voyager guest stars tend to range from mediocre to bad. These are the worst of the fifth season:

And the "winner" is... Mark Harelik, because he seriously damaged an episode that could have been really good, while the others were in episodes that were largely unsalvageable.


BEST GUEST STAR: Exceptions to the rule this year include:

And the winner is... J. Paul Boehmer.


And now for the big awards...

WORST ACTOR: Garrett Wang for "The Disease." That's the second year in a row for Garrett; congratulations!

WORST ACTRESS: Roxann Dawson for "Extreme Risk." That's not to say she was especially bad there, but I had to pick something.

BEST ACTRESS: Jeri Ryan for the season; she can be counted on to make something out of even the dumbest idea.

BEST ACTOR: Robert Picardo for the season, despite being noticeably off in a couple of episodes. But really, who else is there?

WORST EPISODE: The nominees, both with CCRs of 1.5, are "The Disease" and "The Fight." I hereby declare "The Disease" worst episode.

BEST EPISODE: There are three episodes that I assigned an 8.0: "Drone," "Counterpoint," and "Course: Oblivion." I know this won't be a popular choice, but if I pick the episode that I personally liked watching the most, it would have to be "Course: Oblivion." If only the real crew could be written half as effectively and courageously as this fake crew was, Star Trek: Voyager would be a hell of a show, instead of merely hell.

Previous: Season 4 Review
Next: Season 6 Review
See you next year!



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