Star Trek: Voyager

startrekvoyagerStar Trek: Voyager is the worst Star Trek show. And by that I don’t mean it’s the fifth-best Star Trek show. I mean it’s just a bad show.

And, yes, it’s worse than Star Trek: Enterprise, which wasn’t very good either. But at least Enterprise had some interesting crew and tried to do a few things, although it annoyingly ignored canon at times. Still, that’s better than Star Trek: Voyager, which was an exercise in the writers growing far too comfortable (read: complacent) with the genre and the era.

What Works
Interesting premise, flinging the ship and crew seventy thousand light years from Federation space. One query with this is that Kirk and Picard regularly had their ships flung to the far reaches of the galaxy, and always got back within forty minutes. But at least the idea is sound.

Robert Picardo is excellent as the Doctor, and Jeri Ryan strong as Seven of Nine. Robert Beltran brings a quiet nobility to Command Chakotay, but is underused (allegedly, because Beltran was so outspoken about the direction of the show). Kate Mulgrew is a good actress and was solid as Star Trek’s first commanding female officer but, unfortunately, Captain Kathryn Janeway is a terrible character.

What Doesn’t Work
Mulgrew herself described Janeway as ‘bipolar’ to explain why she was so erratic, although apparently the reason for this were different writers had different ideas on how Janeway should be portrayed, so were always pushing their own agenda given their opportunity.

The rest of the cast is bland – Tuvok (Tim Russ) was just a Spock clone without what made Spock interesting (the half-human side). Harry Kim (Garrett Wang) was meant to be killed off a few seasons in, which shows how valued he was. B’Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson) just seemed to run around being angry or frustrated with everybody. Tom Paris (Robert Duncan MacNeill) is likeable, but doesn’t get to do much. Kes (Jennifer Lien) walks around in a perpetually dreamy state, and Neelix (Ethan Phillips) is appalling, with little to offer once Voyager moves out of the regions he knows. All these characters become one-dimensional, even when their lives change circumstantially. They hit their beats, do their thing, and that’s it for them.

Following The Original Series, the writers struggled creating adversarial races. The Ferengi were initially laughable, and the writers could never make the Romulans work as this omnipresent threat. The Breen were often mentioned but never went anywhere. Ultimately, to create threatening aliens, the writers fell back on using a warrior archetype, which meant they just cloned the Klingons, e.g. the Jem’Hadar were just juiced-up Klingon, while the Cardassians were cultured Klingons. What helped the Cardassians come to life were two compelling characters, Gul Dukat and Elim Garak, played brilliantly by Marc Alaimo and Andrew Robinson. Through Dukat and Garak, the Cardassians gained depth. The Borg were genuinely good as mechanised Klingons. In Star Trek: Voyager, the initial threat were the Kazon, another brand of alien who were just Klingon Lite.

Initially, Janeway integrates Chakotay’s Maquis crew onto Voyager, which is meant to create conflict and tension. That’s briefly explored, but then dropped. The show then unfolds as a clone of Star Trek: Next Generation, with the crew stopping to investigate new life, new civilisations, and all that. You’d think given how far they are from home, there’d be some urgency about their journey, and that their Starfleet integrity would be tested more. It happens a few times, but never with any real complexity.

Robert Beltran was also critical of the show as it went on, saying that Janeway had grown tyrannical, that supporting characters were forgotten, and any time any situation came up, all Janeway had to do was consult Seven of Nine’s repository of Borg knowledge for a solution, thus it made the rest of them redundant.

The technobabble progressively grows out of control so that it undermines any dramatic tension. If you look at the climax of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan as a comparison, we have a very simple set up: the ship doesn’t have enough power to warp away before the Genesis device explodes. Spock goes down and we see him fixing something to do with the engine. The Enterprise regains power and warps away. Nice, simple, yet compelling. We understand that. Technobabble used? Zero. In Voyager, you know they’ll get out of any situation just by spouting some meaningless technobabble. It becomes a deus ex machina. Then there’s the Borg: they were intimidating in Star Trek: The Next Generation. In Star Trek: Voyager, they’ve lost any real threat. Whenever the crew of the Voyager deal with them, it’s with complete aplomb.

Finally, I’m unsure why the needed so many time travel stories. The writers have the vastness of the galaxy, they’re in uncharted space, and they still have to screw around with time travel. That goes infinitely for the finale, which has to rate as one of the laziest and most offensive finales in television history.

How I Would’ve Done It
We can keep the premise. We can keep the bulk of the characters. Tom Paris is good, but I would’ve played on him as disreputable – always looking for an angle to try to get Voyager home quicker. Cut Tuvok’s long-standing friendship with Janeway. And cut him as a Vulcan. Make him a Romulan observer who was aboard (for their initial mission), and now has to integrate into the crew, but whose motivations and choices are often questionable, although he learns morality along the way. Harry Kim and Neelix are out. Instead, I would’ve used Nog (Aron Eisenberg) from Star Trek: Deep Space 9, who now has to embrace his Ferengi instincts to barter with people in the Delta Quadrant for supplies and resources. Atop of being a Starfleet officer, he has to learn to accept who he is.

Janeway and Chakotay can stay, but both are pushed way down the chain of command – Janeway to Lieutenant Commander, Chakotay to equal rank, more general experience, but no real bridge qualification. When the Voyager is shunted into the Delta Quadrant, the bridge crew – including the Captain and the First Officer – are killed. Janeway survives because she’s in Astrometics, and is now thrown way out of her depth because she has to take command. The crew are divided about her. Half want to uphold Starfleet principles, the other half feel they should just do whatever’s required to get the Voyager home as quickly as possible. Everybody’s unsure whether Janeway has the capability to command. It doesn’t help that Chakotay feels he should be in charge. Torres also stays, but not as this fledgling engineer, but chief engineer who’s been around, is decorated, and has the respect of the crew. Her support of Janeway validates Janeway’s standing.

Throughout, Janeway’s ideals are tested. But the Voyager is a big ship, and she has a lot of people wanting to get home, so there are times she has to compromise for one reason or another – either to keep the ship functioning, because she finds a possible shortcut, or simply because she recognizes the crew’s coming apart. Voyager (the ship) also experiences wear. Throughout the existing show, Voyager always looks pristine, but the ship would become scarred, run out of resources, and even go through stretches (as in episodes) where systems aren’t working. It’ not like they can just stop at a starbase and get a service, so keeping the ship up and running drives the urgency of their mission.

MovieRant: Exploring Star Trek into Darkness.

Star-Trek-Into-DarknessI’m sorry. I just have to go back and give Star Trek into Darkness another punch in the head.

The reason? Because people like it, they actually like it, and whilst I understand entertainment is subjective, whilst usually I will respect others’ opinions, as far as this movie goes (with Man of Steel close behind), I can’t.

To this end, I’m going to provide a breakdown of Star Trek into Darkness’s teaser to illustrate how moronic it is.

The Set-Up
Here’s a brief synopsis of the opening: the crew of the Enterprise are trying to stop a volcano from blowing up and wiping out a primitive race on an alien planet. Spock has entered the volcano to plant a Cold Fusion bomb (don’t ask), which’ll literally freeze the eruption (yes, Cold Fusion doesn’t actually mean it fuses stuff coldly, but what the hell), whilst Kirk and Bones are trying to get the aliens out of the kill-zone.

  • Just me but I’m always curious as to what occurs before we see a scene unfold, e.g. how did the characters get in the positions and circumstances they are in? What happened here? The Enterprise was just flying by, somehow detected an erupting volcano, and decided to save the planet? How unabashedly convenient.
  • In the universe of Star Trek, it’s not the job of Starfleet (Kirk’s employer) to save primitive worlds from natural (or any other) disaster. If that occurs, that’s simply bad luck. So, already, the movie’s managed one strike in not actually understanding its source material. But for the sake of reimagining Star Trek let’s accept that Starfleet crews zip around the cosmos playing good Samaritan.

1.10 ~ Kirk, dressed in blue robes and carrying some sort of parchment in his hands, runs from a temple. Angry alien natives stream after him.

  • Nothing wrong yet – that will be the last time I say that.

1.28 ~ Kirk runs into an alien bear
Kirk uses his phaser to stun the bear. The bear collapses revealing another blue-robed figure standing behind it – McCoy. McCoy exclaims that Kirk just stunned their ride.

  • Okay, how does this work? Kirk and McCoy go to the planet, they split up, Kirk goes to steal the parchment and McCoy tames a wild alien bear? The alien bear roars at Kirk, proving it’s not malleable. Also, whilst it’s big, it’s not elephant-big or elephant-shaped, which suggests they could ride it. This is here as a cheap scare and attempt at humour.
  • I’m unsure what McCoy’s purpose was coming on this mission. Going on available evidence, he does nothing but flee when it’s time to run. Maybe he should’ve just stayed behind.

1.50 ~ Plot reveal
The aliens are revealed to be humanoid but all white (perhaps body paint?) with black eyes. Kirk says he took something the aliens were bowing to. He gets on his communicator and says he’s got the aliens out of the ‘kill-zone’ and that Spock is all clear.

  • Spock’s action isn’t reliant on the aliens being clear of their temple. Theoretically, Spock could’ve taken his action at any point and the aliens would’ve never been the wiser.

2.10 ~ Sulu flies Spock down to the volcano through a thick black ash cloud. Uhura is also in the shuttle.
Spock asks Kirk whether the aliens saw him. Kirk claims they did not, Spock iterates that, ‘The Prime Directive clearly states that there can be no interference with the internal development of alien civilisations.’

  • Here’s the stupid thing: the aliens are either white or covered in white body-paint. The bulk of them wear yellow cowls and yellow loin-clothes. They have decorative markings on their bodies. Kirk went in masked in a blue robe. Even if they can’t see his face, he’s clearly not one of them. They clearly saw him, but let’s accept Kirk’s being glib.
  • Why are the others flying down in a shuttle? Why not just beam down to the planet? If they can’t beam into the volcano, why not beam to the top of the volcano? If for whatever reason they can’t beam at all, why do they have to fly the shuttle directly down into the volcano? Kirk says he’s luring the aliens out of the kill-zone, which means these are the only aliens who live around the mountain. Couldn’t the shuttle come from the other side?
  • Why is Uhura in the shuttle? Why would you bring the Communications’ Officer on this mission?
  • Spock states the Prime Directive, and yet this action they’re taking (to save the planet) clearly violates the internal development of the planet. Can you say, ‘Huh?’

3.10 ~ Spock plummets from the shuttle into the volcano

  • This is such a big part of the premise, that Spock had to go into the volcano. I can accept they might’ve said they couldn’t beam him in for whatever reason. But couldn’t they have beamed the bomb above the volcano and just dropped it in? When they bomb is set off, it didn’t need any specific placement or preparation so it could’ve just been lobbed into the volcano mouth.

3.30 ~ The conditions are too treacherous and Sulu wants to pull Spock out. Spock’s response: ‘Negative. This is our only chance to save this species. If this volcano erupts the planet dies.’

  • Really? One erupting volcano will destroy the entire planet?
  • Okay, working on the premise that one erupting volcano will destroy the ENTIRE PLANET, what was the point of Kirk’s mission to lure the aliens from the kill-zone? Apparently, the entire planet is a kill-zone.

4.05 ~ Sulu pulls the shuttle out.
The black cloud is too thick, the heat too severe, so Sulu makes a decision to ditch the shuttle. They suit up to jump into the water.

  • They’re worried about cultural interference and are ditching shuttles on the planet? At no point is any mention given to cleaning up whatever debris the shuttle has left behind.

5.15 ~ It’s revealed that USS Enterprise is parked under water..

  • Okay, just in case JJ Abrams didn’t get this: it’s called the ‘starship Enterprise.’ Without even going into the science of why it should be impossible to take a ship underwater, the entire premise of this movie so far has been to take discreet action to save the planet. Remember, Spock asked Kirk if Kirk was seen. Now tell me, how the hell did they park an entire starship underwater without anybody seeing it happen? Even if we can rationalise that they did it at night (accepting that everybody on the planet must be deaf and didn’t hear it occurring), surely something that big going underwater is going to cause massive water displacement – you know, floods, that sort of thing. And what about the damage to marine life? Starfleet is meant to be altruistic. In fact, they had a movie (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) with a strong environmental message (saving whales, preservation). But, don’t worry, let’s just park the ship underwater, kill all the marine life, and cause floods.
  • How long did it take to park the Enterprise under water? Why waste time with this pointless action when they’re concentrated on saving the planet and time seems to be of the essence?
  • Star Trek invented transporters, so they could beam crew to planets, instead of worrying about ship landings. At worst, they can take a shuttle down. So why take the whole ship down?
  • There are just too many stupidities involved in trying to rationalise why they would take the entire ship down instead of using any of the other facilities available to them, particularly when their actions are meant to be covert.

5.26 ~ Scotty: ‘Do you have any idea how ridiculous it is to hide a starship on the bottom of the ocean? We’ve been down here since last night. The saltwater’s going to ruin …’

  • You know what’s annoying here? This is the writers’ little tip to the audience that it’s all a bit of a joke, that they know they’re taking a bizarre course of action, and by having one of the characters acknowledging it, they’re aware of the audiences’ reservations and let’s all have a bit of a laugh about it. It’s an attempted distraction, subterfuge as if to fool the audience into believing we’re all in on the joke, when the truth is they should be questioning its idiocy.

6.06 ~ The volcano starts erupting and destroys the aliens’ temple.

  • Well, there’s the kill-zone – the filmmakers pointing out how by luring the aliens away, Kirk saved them … even though Spock has told us the whole planet will be destroyed.

6.11 ~ Shot of aliens reacting.
The aliens stare in horror at the destruction of their temple. Amongst the aliens are alien children and an adult cradling a tiny baby (perhaps only months old).

  • Let’s not forget that the aliens are out here because they pursued Kirk. So, seriously, did the kids come out on the chase, too? And did that one adult decide to take his baby on the chase?

6.15 ~ Kirk and co arrive back on the bridge of the Enterprise.
They establish Spock’s stuck in the volcano and they won’t be able to beam him out without a direct line of sight. Spock says the ash cloud could conceal the shuttle, but the Enterprise is too large, and would be revealed to the aliens.

  • Understandably, this isn’t going to matter to Kirk, because the aliens have already seen him. However, if the writers weren’t idiots, they would’ve realised it’d be a much more dramatic moment if we hadn’t already seen Kirk break the rules, and thus know he’d have no problem about breaking them again.

7.06 ~ Spock: ‘The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.’

  • This parallels what Spock says in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It’s the writers’ attempt to engage an audience with their supposed intimacy of the source material. Of course, in the original timeline, this quote wouldn’t happen for at least another ten years, so this Spock is remarkably prescient.

8.00 ~ The Enterprise rises up out of the water in front of all the aliens.
The aliens are agape as the Enterprise flies out of the water and heads for the volcano. Spock is beamed from the volcano. The Enterprise heads for space. Spock’s Cold Fusion bomb detonates and freezes the volcano’s eruption. Kirk and Spock run to the transporter room to greet Spock. Spock laments Kirk let the aliens see their ship and that they violated the Prime Directive. Kirk isn’t perturbed. He says, ‘Oh come on, Spock, they saw us. Big deal.’

  • Throughout, this teaser, they push Spock’s concern about violating the Prime Directive, but every action they’ve taken to this point has flagrantly risked exposure.

9.36: The aliens dance and sway with religious fervour around one alien as he sketches an image of the Enterprise into the ground.

  • This is meant to illustrate the influence seeing the Enterprise has had on the aliens but, really, Kirk’s right: ‘Big deal.’ These aliens are virtually prehistoric. It’d be like flying a 747-Boeing over a group of cavemen. How would that impact on them? Sure, they’d marvel, but it’s not like that have either the intelligence to understand what they’ve seen, or the technology to attempt to emulate it. They’d draw it on a few cave walls, tell a story about it, and that’d be it.

That’s the teaser of the movie. And it’s dumb. Mindlessly, amazingly, overwhelmingly dumb.

I might go to a movie to switch off for a couple of hours and be entertained (well, hopefully) but when lobotomised plotting confronts you, what do you do? There really is no rationale for the writing (which just gets worse), other than to hope that dazzling the audience with effects will also switch off their brains.

Not me.

It’s just not good storytelling.