Over the last few months I’ve rewatched all of Star Trek: Voyager. Here’s what I thought were the notable episodes of season two…
* Deadlock. A full-throttle, pacy, dangerous episode, which sees the USS Voyager split into two equally valid duplicates by a weird space cloud. There’s action! Intensity! Death! Sci-fi nonsense! It’s all here. Great stuff. (There’s also the pleasingly surreal detail that one of our regular characters is killed off… but then replaced by his equivalent from the other ship.)
* The 37s. An odd, lowkey season opener (because it’s actually one of four episodes that had been held back from the first production block). It lacks much drama, tension or incident, but there’s fun in the idea of the crew finding 20th-century aviator Amelia Earhart and other human beings in suspended animation. The mirroring of Earhart with Voyager captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) – two pioneering women, of course – works reasonably well.
* Projections. An episode entirely from the point of view of the ship’s hologrammatic, computer-generated Doctor (Robert Picardo) as he comes to believe that *he’s* real and everyone else is an illusion. There’s a huge amount of technobabble but it’s still enjoyable stuff. Dwight Schultz reprises his Next Generation role of the neurotic Starfleet officer Reg Barclay.
* Elogium. Kes (Jennifer Lien) hits puberty, which for her race means she must mate or miss her one chance to be a mother. (Hang on… So, Kes was prepubescent before now? And was in a relationship with Neelix?!)
* Non Sequitur. Ensign Harry Kim (Garrett Wang), the show’s blandest character, gets a rare chance for some focus in a nicely directed story. He wakes up one morning and he’s back home in San Francisco, living a nice life with his hot girlfriend. It seems he never did join the crew of Voyager – but what’s going on?
* Twisted. A diverting piece of whimsy as a plot-device space distortion causes the layout of the ship to reconfigure.
* Resistance. This is a rarity for early seasons of Voyager: an action plot that takes place on an alien planet with guest characters. It’s fairly conventional but features good guest turns from Joel Grey and Alan Scarfe. Janeway, security officer Lieutenant Commander Tuvok (Tim Russ) and chief engineer Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson) go undercover on a hostile world, but two are captured and Janeway has to go on the run.
* Prototype. An android is found floating in space, and Torres takes it upon herself to reboot it. The episode keeps the interest by constantly evolving: at first it’s a mystery story, then a passion project for Torres, then a kidnap/rescue plot, then a Prime Directive discussion. (The robot is very reminiscent of the design used in the 1970s Doctor Who serial The Robots of Death.)
* Alliances. The fact that some of the Voyager crew are co-opted rebels is *finally* remembered; there’s friction and dissent as the ship comes under repeated attacks from semi-regular villains the Kazon and must consider a pact with some dodgy aliens.
* Meld. Tuvok psychically links his mind with that of a violent murderer and it has a severely bad effect on his own psychology. (The casting of the murderer isn’t going to win any originality awards, though: Brad Dourif has made a career out of playing weirdos.)
* Death Wish. A Q episode was perhaps inevitable if you know your Star Trek lore. A member of that godlike race shows up seeking asylum, then the Q we know from The Next Generation arrives to argue against it. A fun, quirky episode that’s actually about something: the being calling himself Quinn wants asylum from his people because they won’t allow him to kill himself. Gerrit Graham gives a decent performance, though a fan-baiting cameo from Jonathan Frakes’s Next Gen character Will Riker feels lumpy.
* Lifesigns. Too slow, but there’s sweetness too as the Doctor falls in love for the first time.
* Investigations. Two stories – the insubordination of helmsman Lieutenant Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill), which has been bubbling away for a few episodes, and the ship’s morale-officer-cum-chef, Neelix (Ethan Phillips), having a desire to start a shipboard TV show – collide nicely. Tom eventually quits the ship and says his goodbyes… but, as surely every single viewer guesses, it’s all a ruse cooked up with Janeway to ensnare an evil ex-crewmember.
* The Thaw. A really good, old-style Star Trek episode – like one of those diversions into surrealism that the 1960s series was fond of. Michael McKean is great value as a clown-like trickster who keeps people trapped in a virtual-reality world. It’s all directed with a sense of humour and visual flamboyance.
* Tuvix. Tuvok and Neelix are combined into one being due to a teleportation accident. It’s a decent Star Trek-y idea: taking a sci-fi conceit and turning it into a character story.
* Resolutions. Janeway and first officer Commander Chakotay (Robert Beltran) have to be left behind on a near-empty planet because they’ve been infected by a disease that will kill them if they leave. The crew reluctantly go on their way, continuing their journey back to Earth… There’s watchable drama on both sides of the equation, even if you feel that punches are being pulled now and again (especially when it comes to Janeway and Chakotay’s potential romance).
* Tatoo. As naff as TV drama can get: a simplistic and patronising episode about Chakotay’s Native American heritage and an alien race’s interference in it. There are also flashbacks to Chakotay’s youth featuring a dreadful kid actor. At least the comedy B plot – the Doctor gives himself a cold to see what it feels like – is quite fun.
Next time: Season three