Aug 19, 2010

[TV] Star Trek Voyager: Season 1

Star Trek Voyager: Season 1I've recently started to formally introduce my partner to the wonderful world of Star Trek. Given the many incarnations of Trek, I knew that I had to be a bit more careful in terms of which Trek to use as an initial springboard into the universe of the 24th century. This is one of those cases when starting at the very beginning is not necessarily a good idea - the original series is a bit harder to get into compared to other Treks, at least in my opinion.

So instead I went with this route - one of the few shows that I've completely watched more than once. I'm not sure why exactly - one could just blame the Asian franchise of The Hallmark Channel for showing it over and over while I was in high school / college. Or there's Seven of Nine, who remains to be one of the characters that I grew to like a lot more in all of Trekdom. Or maybe it's just one of those shows that ends on a nice and more or less happy note.

So I settled on this particular show and the initial journey has been interesting to say that least. Beyond my own enjoyment of watching the show all over again, my partner seems to be enjoying the adventure as well.

Star Trek Voyager is the fourth Star Trek franchise (or the fifth if you count the cartoon) and the last one to reach the healthy lifetime of seven seasons. It was also the first (and only) Trek to feature a female captain in charge.

The series begins with the crew of the USS Voyager dispatched to the Badlands to locate a missing Maquis ship. Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) enlists the aid of Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeil), a former Starfleet officer who had joined the Maquis but was now in prison, given that her Tactical Officer Lieutenant Tuvok (Tim Russ) was part of the Maquis crew as an undercover agent. The ship follows the trail of the Maquis until they find themselves flung more than 70,000 light years from their location into the Delta Quadrant.

Caretaker (Star Trek: Voyager)Image via WikipediaAn alien being known only as the Caretaker was the reason they were transported to this area and so have many other ships over the years. In time they find the missing Maquis ship and the two crews find themselves forced to work together in order to find their way home.

Okay, the second half of that summary was a bit messy, but I was trying to avoid revealing too much of the plot - that might ruin the pilot for some people. I still care about this despite the fact this show ended nearly ten years ago. It's a matter of principle I suppose - no sense in spoiling it for other people who still might get into the show, right?
Voyager was interesting given its core premise is not just about this brave crew finding their way home. From a somewhat more abstract sense, the concept that drove the stories was the fact that this is a Star Trek story without the Federation. More often than not there's the comfort of the larger organization to run back to, and thus this show decided to do away with that. That means no reinforcements or starbases to mount full repairs. No resources other than what they have and no replacements for lost equipment or crew. It's certainly an interesting concept despite initial jokes about how the show was named after a car.

The crew was certainly an interesting one that played on a few pre-established Trek archetypes. They went back to having a Vulcan on the ship, but for once not in a technical field. They had a half-Klingon in the form of Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson), but this time as an engineer instead of security. Yeah, that particular reversal wasn't very subtle now was it? And in the effort to further explore ethnic minorities, the Maquis commander, Chakotay (Robert Beltran) had to have Native American roots.

As far as concepts go, I was most impressed and intrigued by their Chief Medical Officer, who ended up being the Emergency Medical Hologram (Robert Picardo). By the very nature of this character you know the writers had a good concept to play around with. Instead of the usual lame holodeck adventures, this was a nice exploration of artificial intelligence and the definition of sentience and identity. Early episodes in this season include Heroes and Demons, where The Doctor gets to save the day precisely because he's a hologram. I have to admit he is one of my favorites on the show, especially during this first run.

Sure, the show had all the usual first season problems. Weird storylines. Sad enemies in the form of the Kazon and slightly better ones like the Vidiians. And annoying characters like Neelix (Ethan Phillips), who is right up there with Jar Jar in the competition for most annoying characters in science fiction. Some of you may like him, but I never really fully appreciated his purpose, especially in this first season.

Best episodes for this run include Eye of the Needle with our first-ever "micro-wormhole", Emanations, a nice piece on religion, the afterlife versus the world of science and the aforementioned Heroes and Demons, which is probably one of the very few holodeck episodes that I've ever liked.

Star Trek Voyager: Season 1 is a nice softer entry into the worlds of Star Trek and the future as envisioned by Gene Roddenberry. It gets 4 exploratory side trips on their way home to the Alpha Quadrant out of a possible 5.
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