Case Number 05091

STAR TREK: VOYAGER, SEASON THREE

Paramount // 1997 // 1170 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Eric Profancik (Retired) // August 30th, 2004

The Charge

"Please state the nature of the medical emergency."

Opening Statement

Voyager is not my favorite incarnation of Star Trek. The jury is still out as to whether Voyager or Enterprise will earn the distinction of being the worst Trek television series. I cannot make a final judgment until Enterprise gets its full seven-year run...if it gets its full seven-year run.

With that in mind, I wasn't certain if I would buy the DVDs of this show, as I had with The Next Generation and Deep Space 9. Would I be a Trek lemming and simply hand over $700 for the series -- a series that never really caught my fancy -- or would I wisely stand back and save the money for other ventures? Well, it turns out that I am a Trek lemming and will be buying all seven years of Voyager. I guess I'm just a sucker for anything Trek. But you know what? After I bought and watched the first season, my thoughts on the show changed. I found the first season to be compelling and interesting. It wasn't as boring and random as I had remembered. I then stepped back and thought that seeing all seven seasons crammed into one year would allow me to better appreciate the ebb and flow of the show. I had high hopes.

Then I watched Seasons Two and Three, and my hopes were dashed.

Facts of the Case

Presented on this seven-disc set are the 26 episodes of the third season:

* Basics Part II
* Flashback
* The Chute
* The Swarm
* False Profits
* Remember
* Sacred Ground
* Future's End Part I
* Future's End Part II
* Warlord
* The Q and the Grey
* Macrocosm
* Fair Trade
* Alter Ego
* Coda
* Blood Fever
* Unity
* Darkling
* Rise
* Favorite Son
* Before and After
* Real Life
* Distant Origin
* Displaced
* Worst Case Scenario
* Scorpion Part I

For once, I am not going to go into detail on each episode because you can get a summary from any of a number of websites out there. What you will experience in this season is an odd collection of stories that run the gamut of science fiction, from pure technobabble to personal trials and tribulations.

The Evidence

One key problem with Voyager ripples its way throughout each episode, leaving the viewer with a vague feeling of dissatisfaction. Voyager doesn't know where it's going; our intrepid crew is lost in the Delta quadrant without a map. Since the first season, the show has shed one of the two core ideas of the show: the friction between the Starfleet and the Maquis officers. Now that everyone is one big happy family, all that's left is the long trek home. You would think that leaves plenty of room for exploration and new ventures, but it seems that it left the Trek writers at a loss. Episodes don't flow naturally from one to another, and you can't grasp how all these disparate events are supposed to tie together as the characters try to get home. While there's an inherent arc to the series, it's more background noise than plot: One week gives us a problem with Tuvok; the next, a problem with Harry; and the following, some random new alien problem.

With these seemingly random stories popping up, not only do you feel disconnected from the plight of the crew, but you also get a lot of bad episodes. In this season, there are several clunkers that are among the worst of all seven years, most notably "Warlord" -- the Kes's mind is overtaken by a man episode -- and "Macrocosm" -- the Janeway emulates Ripley episode. When you''re done watching these really preposterous stories, your faith in the series begins to wane just a little bit faster.

But on the flip side, maybe the writers realized they were lost during this season and tried to find their footing. By testing new ideas in a variety of episodes, they hoped to find something that would connect with fans and help solidify the arc. After two years, they realized they had to drop the Kazons as the primary nemesis, but who would replace them? Should there be a main alien villain for the series, or would it be more exciting to encounter strange new life forms each week? It turns out there was a combination of both these ideas. On the broader horizon, though, that special glue, that "certain something" that a show has that binds it all together, was just missing. The original series had the "holy trinity" and morality tales, TNG had great storytelling, DS9 had Bajor, Cardassia, and the Dominion, but what does Voyager have? Unfortunately, the characters aren't that engrossing, the stories are mostly average, and the arc was relegated to being a means to an end. I'm giving the writers the benefit of the doubt by purporting that their hodgepodge of shows was an attempt to make the series gel, but perhaps I'm being too kind, because in the end, nothing they tried really stuck and gave the show the cohesiveness it was lacking.

Even more distressing was that in trying to find that sweet spot, they reached into the old bag o' Trek tricks: Vulcan pon farr, the Borg, time travel, a nod to TNG via the Ferengi, and an even bigger nod to classic Trek via Captain Sulu. At the time, I didn't realize just how desperate they were in the third season to keep the series going. If you can't find your own way, then simply fall back onto what worked in the past. (Is this when Star Trek jumped the shark?) And since Season Three premiered right after Star Trek: First Contact successfully hit the big screen, the writers at Voyager began what would be both a success and a failure for the series: the introduction of the Borg as the series's baddies. Everyone loves the Borg, and since it had been established that the Delta quadrant is the Borg home space, it would be logical to pit the two against each other. Season Three only lays the foundation of the Voyager-Borg relationship, so it is unfair to discuss this in depth. For the viewer at the end of the cliffhanger "Scorpion," it appeared that Voyager had found its magic dust. But as time would tell, not everything can be fixed by Borg technology.

This set from Paramount is right in line with the previous 16 Star Trek releases. You'll find absolutely nothing new or exciting in this release. On the video front, you get a full-frame transfer that looks pretty good but lacks the spark and pizzazz of the best transfers. Colors are accurate and vibrant, detail is solid, blacks are robust, and there are no significant transfer errors to be found (which is nice since shimmering was a problem in some past sets). For the audio, your standard choices are a remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 or the original Dolby Digital 2.0. I always listen to the 5.1 mix, and I will say that the Voyager discs sound the best of all the releases: Dialogue is always clear, and you even get some real surround effects in the episodes.

The bonus materials also follow the same pattern as the other releases:

* "Braving the Unknown, Season 3" (13 minutes): A standard piece with cast and crew members giving their thoughts on some of the "key" episodes of the season. Nothing spectacular is shared in this piece.

* "Voyager Time Capsule -- Neelix" (11.5 minutes): Though it's another standard (that seems to be the word of the day) character overview, this oone is better than most. It is livelier and seems to delve a bit deeper into the character and the man who portrays him.

* "Voyager Time Capsule -- Kes" (11.5 minutes): Quite the opposite of Neelix's bio, this one is lifeless and dull. The problem is that there are no new interviews with Jennifer Lien; her interview is taken from a PR piece taped during the first season. You know there's trouble afoot when you use old footage, and an examination of that trouble would have been a great bonus item!

* "A Flashback to 'Flashback'" (13 minutes): A retrospective on the historic episode that brings George Takei back to Trek. This feature is pretty good, with some nice pieces of information, but I would have liked just a little bit more behind-the-scenes info and gossip from the episode.

* "Red Alert: Amazing Visual Effects" (16.5 minutes): An overview of some of the favored special effects from the season, primarily focusing on "Basics," "Distant Origin," "Future's End," and "Macrocosm."

* "Real Science with Andre Bormanis" (10 minutes): The best feature in the bunch, this piece pits "Treknology" against real technology. This one works better than the other "Real Science" entries because of the two guest speakers, real astrophysicists who enthusiastically discuss the topics at hand.

Also included are a photo gallery, a trailer for the Borg 4D attraction in Las Vegas, and the usual batch of (five) Easter eggs.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Not all is bad in the land of Trek in this third year, for there are some very good episodes thrown into the mix:

* "Flashback": The return of Captain Sulu to the Trek universe. Though not as strong as the other anniversary tale, DS9's "Trials and Tribble-ations," it was wonderful to see another TOS-er in action, one last time.

* "The Chute": A clever idea that not only gives Harry a chance to grow but also helps make Tom just a little less annoying...for an episode or two, that is.

* "The Q and the Grey": I love Q, so I love all of his episodes. Not only did they get rid of the awful grey lipstick they had the Q wear in Season Two, but they also introduced the first female Q, played by the great Suzie Plakson (Dr. Selar, K'Ehleyr).

* "Before and After": Kes's best episode, in spite of the fact that the well-worn time-travel bit is used.

* "Real Life": Though I quickly tire of episodes focusing on the EMH, this episode turns a fluffy idea into a solid character development tale for our holographic doctor.

* "Distant Origin": An excellent concept about the evolution of the dinosaurs, interweaving the debate between evolution and creationism.

* "Worst Case Scenario": As I mentioned earlier, the core concept of Starfleet versus Maquis on Voyager was tossed away early on. This episode quite cleverly resurrects that conflict and brings Seska back.

Closing Statement

Although I did have high hopes after watching the first season of Voyager, the second and third seasons have dashed them back down. The episodes lost the sense of urgency and gravitas present during the first 15 episodes of the series. Instead of experiencing trepidation about the voyage back to the Alpha quadrant, I just felt blasé about the whole affair. Whatever edge was fostered early on has been squandered by stories that don't connect and that meander across too many topics. It appears the writers, while trying to find their footing, actually slipped a little further, clearly not achieving their goal of making Voyager more palatable to the masses. Voyager is clearly the bastard child of the franchise. It is the least favored of all (but not disdained by all), and I am sad to say that, even now, I fall into that category. I had hoped to find that magic spark that I missed the first time. I had hoped that watching all the episodes back to back would pull me in further this time. Unfortunately, that did not happen. As a result, for the first time ever, I am not going to recommend this set for purchase. The series itself is simply mediocre. Only hardcore Trekkies and fans of Janeway will be compelled to add these sets to their collections. Granted, I am one of them, but I know my kind are few and far between. Save your money to purchase the superior shows in the franchise -- TOS, TNG, or DS9.

The Verdict

Star Trek: Voyager is hereby found guilty of wandering aimlessly across the galaxy. The crew is sentenced to return to Starfleet Academy and repeat their courses with the hope that they'll learn how to do things properly.

Case adjourned.

Review content copyright © 2004 Eric Profancik; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 90
Audio: 91
Extras: 80
Acting: 80
Story: 83
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile
Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

Subtitles:
* English

Running Time: 1170 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* "Braving the Unknown, Season 3"
* "Voyager Time Capsule -- Neelix"
* "Voyager Time Capsule -- Kes"
* "A Flashback to 'Flashback'"
* "Red Alert: Amazing Visual Effects"
* "Real Science with Andre Bormanis"
* Lost Transmissions
* Photo Gallery
* Borg 4D Trailer
* Easter Eggs

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0112178/combined

* Official Site
http://www.startrek.com/