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Case Number 05256

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Star Trek: Voyager, Season Two

Paramount // 1995 // 1183 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bryan Byun (Retired) // September 27th, 2004

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All Rise...

Judge Bryan Byun refuses to believe that a species that can come up with a concept like "symbiogenesis" can't design more user-friendly DVD packaging.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Star Trek: Voyager, Season One (published March 9th, 2004), Star Trek: Voyager, Season Three (published August 30th, 2004), Star Trek: Voyager, Season Four (published November 17th, 2004), Star Trek: Voyager, Season Five (published November 24th, 2004), Star Trek: Voyager, Season Six (published January 12th, 2005), and Star Trek: Voyager, Season Seven (published February 2nd, 2005) are also available.

The Charge

"We're Starfleet officers—weird is part of the job."—Captain Kathryn Janeway

Opening Statement

After an uneven but promising maiden season, Star Trek: Voyager is back for a second run—but will it fulfill fans' already-dwindling hopes?

Facts of the Case

Season Two of Voyager comprises 26 hour-long episodes, although four of them—"The 37's," "Projections," "Elogium," and "Twisted"—were originally produced for the first season but were held over in order to round out the second-season episodes.

• "The 37's"
Voyager discovers a 1936 Ford pickup truck drifting through space, and shortly thereafter encounters…a completely average 1930s human being of no consequence whatsoever! I'm joking, of course—this is Star Trek, after all. They meet Amelia Earhart. A tepid season opener that, incidentally, begs ill-advised comparisons to Gilligan's Island by featuring a cryogenically frozen Japanese soldier who thinks it's still (almost) World War II.
Grade: C+
Your Moment of Treknobabble: "Traces of potassium nitrate, ammonium, and methane back here." "I think you'll find that's manure."

• "Initiations"
A young Kazon punk looking to make his bones as a warrior kidnaps Chakotay, and the Voyager crew, apparently not yet as fed up with Chakotay's New Age-y spiritual mumbo-jumbo as the audience, decides to go after him. When the most boring character on Voyager meets the most boring alien species on Voyager, sit back and watch the sparks die!
Grade: C-
Your Moment of Treknobabble: "Picking up floating debris composed of duranium, magnesite, and electroceramics."

• "Projections"
Voyager meets The Prisoner. The Doctor is activated during a red alert to find himself alone aboard an abandoned Voyager. Lt. Barclay shows up to inform him that everything he's experienced during the past couple of seasons has been an illusion, echoing the fondest wishes of Voyager-hating Trekkers everywhere. While the resolution to the "is it real or Memorex?" mind games is a foregone conclusion, "Projections" is solidly entertaining and a treat for Robert Picardo fans.
Grade: B+
Your Moment of Treknobabble: "It's called HTDS. Holo Transference Dementia Syndrome."

• "Elogium"
It's love, Voyager style, when Kes goes into heat at the same time that Voyager encounters a particularly randy Anomaly of the Week. One of the first-season leftovers, "Elogium" is a contrived, ridiculous mess that should have been left in cold storage.
Grade: D
Your Moment of Treknobabble: "If we vent plasma residue, that might make us look blue."

• "Non Sequitur"
Harry Kim wakes up in San Francisco and finds that everything he's experienced during the past couple of seasons has been an illusion. Wait a minute, didn't we just see this one?
Grade: C+
Your Moment of Treknobabble: "But how do you propose to address the dilithium fracture problem? Tetryon plasma tends to disrupt subspace!"

• "Twisted"
It's a starship…and a Rubik's Cube, when the Anomaly of the Week ties Voyager into knots. A lackluster episode that's elevated by an ending that, for once, doesn't involve some kind of goofy nonexistent technical solution. A pretty blah capper to Season One. Yes, I know this is Season Two, but tell that to Paramount.
Grade: C-
Your Moment of Treknobabble: "Captain, we have encountered an unusual phenomenon…phenomenon…phenomenon…phenomenon…"

• "Parturition"
Voyager meets Enemy Mine when romantic rivals Neelix and Tom Paris are stranded on "Planet Hell" along with an alien baby. A trite-and-true "antagonistic characters forced to bond" episode that's well acted but otherwise pretty dull.
Grade: C-
Your Moment of Treknobabble: "The inputs have locked—we've got to flush the plasma injectors. Oh, maybe it's just a phase synchronization adjustment."

• "Persistence of Vision"
Janeway questions her sanity when objects and people from her holo-novel start popping up around the ship. A gripping episode with a truly intriguing mystery at its heart, even if it does unravel toward the end.
Grade: B
Your Moment of Treknobabble: "It's bioelectric, modulating on a delta wave frequency. It has psionic properties, and it's permeating the hull."

• "Tattoo"
While on a scouting mission, Chakotay encounters a mysterious symbol that he last saw as a youth, back in the Alpha Quadrant. If you like Chakotay, this is a pretty good character-based episode that provides a glimpse into the Commander's past. If, on the other hand, you find Chakotay about as interesting as a tree stump, skip this one.
Grade: B-
Your Moment of Treknobabble: "The polyferranide deposits are contaminated with acyletes."

• "Cold Fire"
Voyager encounters Suspiria, the long-lost mate of the mysterious Caretaker who sent them into the Delta Quadrant; meanwhile, Kes meets another Ocampan, who helps her boost her mental abilities to the boiling point—literally, when she sets Tuvok's blood to boiling. Any mystery this mediocre episode might have had is blown by the writers' odd decision to name the second Caretaker after a Dario Argento horror film.
Grade: C
Your Moment of Treknobabble: "The Caretaker's remains are resonating again."

• "Maneuvers"
With the help of the traitorous Seska, the Kazon attack Voyager and steal transporter technology. Chakotay to the rescue! A surprisingly compelling, action-packed episode despite the presence of the Kazon.
Grade: B+
Your Moment of Treknobabble: "I've got to reinitialize the targeting scanners to match the relative phase of the dampening field."

• "Resistance"
When Tuvok and B'Elanna are captured during an away mission, Janeway must rescue them with the aid of a man who thinks she's his daughter. A standout episode with some strong dramatic moments and compelling performances.
Grade: A
Your Moment of Treknobabble: "We can modify the main deflector to send out dozens of radion beams, which should penetrate the prison shields!"

• "Prototype"
B'Elanna repairs a robot that Voyager has found drifting through space, which turns out to be not such a hot idea when the robot then kidnaps B'Elanna and forces her to build more robots. An intriguing premise that gets bogged down in a staggeringly high proportion of treknobabble to actual dialogue.
Grade: C
Your Moment of Treknobabble: "I could modify a series of anodyne relays, attach them directly to the robot's power module. They could act as a sort of regulator to make the warp plasma compatible with the robot's energy matrix!"

• "Alliances"
After suffering brutal attacks by the Kazon, Janeway—who, fortunately, has seen both parts of the TNG episode "Unification"—attempts to forge an alliance with powerful Kazon sects, none of whom, unfortunately, have seen Godfather III. A strong episode featuring the kind of Delta Quadrant intrigue that we should have seen more of in the series.
Grade: A-
Your Moment of Treknobabble: An exceedingly rare episode that actually contains virtually no treknobabble!

• "Threshold"
>From the sublime to the ridiculous: Paris breaks the Warp 10 barrier in a jury-rigged experimental shuttlecraft and occupies "every point in the universe simultaneously," which somehow does not mean that Paris either explodes or becomes extremely obese—although he does begin to devolve into a salamander. Congratulations to Brannon Braga for coming up with the most ludicrous and implausible episode in all of Trek history, complete with a "magic wand" ending that has to be seen to be disbelieved. Depending upon your level of irony, either a low point or a high point of the season.
Grade: F
Your Moment of Treknobabble: "I've eradicated all traces of the mutant DNA from your system and restored your original genome."

• "Meld"
Tuvok performs a mind meld on Crewman Suder, a psychopath who has murdered a fellow crew member, and in turn begins to mentally unhinge. Wow. A powerful episode with some truly dark, disturbing moments, and a terrific guest appearance by Brad Dourif as Suder. Also notable for a scene where Tuvok finally snaps and throttles Neelix, something many of us have been wanting to do for a long, long time.
Grade: A
Your Moment of Treknobabble: "There's a definite neurochemical imbalance in the mezio-frontal cortex."

• "Dreadnought"
Voyager stumbles upon a doomsday missile from the Alpha Quadrant—one that B'Elanna captured and modified during her years with the Maquis. What are the chances? Exceedingly remote. But if you can buy the improbable premise, you may enjoy this tense, treknobabble-rich episode.
Grade: B-
Your Moment of Treknobabble: "It sent a plasma burst along the tachyon beam into our main power system. We've got EPS relays burnt out all over the ship!"

• "Death Wish"
Voyager inadvertently releases an imprisoned, suicidal Q, which draws the attention of another, more familiar Q, who must stop the first Q from committing suicide so he can be returned to his prison. Q-centric episodes are reliably entertaining, and this one is no exception. "Death Wish" also explores some difficult existential issues in the finest Trek tradition.
Grade: A
Your Moment of Treknobabble: "Well, there's a slight chance that there are magnetodynamic forces acting on the comet that are too subtle for our sensors to detect."

• "Lifesigns"
The doctor saves a dying Vidiian scientist by transferring her brain patterns into the ship's computer and creating a holographic body for her—and finds himself falling in love with her. Another standout episode, thanks to some terrific performances by Robert Picardo and guest star Susan Diol as the Vidiian.
Grade: A
Your Moment of Treknobabble: "According to these readings, the device is actually storing her synaptic patterns, processing them, and transmitting neural-electrical impulses to the rest of her systems."

• "Investigations"
A disgruntled Paris leaves Voyager for a Talaxian convoy, as Neelix plays investigative reporter and uncovers a sinister sabotage plot. An ambitious episode in the way it pays off plot threads that have been gradually developing over the previous several episodes, but the resolution falls a little flat.
Grade: B
Your Moment of Treknobabble: "Reinforce the structural field around the power transfer conduits and then prepare to begin venting plasma!"

• "Deadlock"
In the wake of a Vidiian attack, an accident in a plasma cloud splits Voyager into two identical ships, with disastrous consequences for both. A high-concept episode with an intriguing premise that plays out with satisfying, chaotic urgency, hampered only by a too-clean ending.
Grade: A-
Your Moment of Treknobabble: "The transport caused a slight hemocythemic imbalance, but we'll stabilize her cell membranes with osmotic pressure therapy."

• "Innocence"
When Tuvok crash-lands his shuttlecraft on a moon, he encounters a trio of similarly stranded children, who believe they are to be killed by a creature called the Morrok. Predictably cutesy, but nearly redeemed by a twist ending that will feel oddly familiar to anyone who watched Mork & Mindy after that show jumped the shark. Of course, the twist ending is only possible because certain characters nonsensically fail to reveal critical information at the outset, but hey, it's TV.
Grade: C+
Your Moment of Treknobabble: "What about the electro…the currents that made the ships crash?"

• "The Thaw"
It's Voyager in Wonderland when the crew investigate a dead planet and are sucked into a computer and into a surreal world controlled by a crazed clown (Michael McKean). One of the stranger Voyager episodes, "The Thaw" works splendidly, thanks to strong plotting, an interesting treatment of the theme of fear, and a believably menacing, unhinged performance by McKean.
Grade: A
Your Moment of Treknobabble: "The optronic pathways have nothing to do with the neural interface. It doesn't make any sense!"

• "Tuvix"
A transporter mishap results in "symbiogenesis," fusing Tuvok and Neelix into a single individual. Attempts to separate the being back into Tuvok and Neelix are complicated when the combined "Tuvix" insists upon his right to live. One of the most disturbing and thought-provoking Trek episodes ever.
Grade: A
Your Moment of Treknobabble: "Instead of barium, we've come up with a radioisotope that attaches itself to the DNA of one of the merged species, but not the other."

• "Resolutions"
Janeway and Chakotay are infected with an incurable virus and are left on a planet that protects them from the deadly effects of the virus. Tuvok takes over command of Voyager but soon faces a mutiny by the crew. Not a bad character-based episode, but one that raises more questions than it really answers, and ultimately amounts to not much.
Grade: B-
Your Moment of Treknobabble: "Maybe looking for protein cofactors is the wrong approach. Even if I can't find a specimen of the insect that infected us, I could try to learn something about the bio-molecular evolution of this planet's ecosystem."

• "Basics, Part 1"
The Kazon/Seska story arc comes to a head when Seska informs Voyager that her child, which she claims is Chakotay's, is at risk. Chakotay attempts to rescue the child…but could it be a trap? One guess. A cliffhanger episode, "Basics" ends the season on a pretty bleak note, but the reappearance of Suder from "Meld" provides a welcome bit of continuity.
Grade: B+
Your Moment of Treknobabble: "The molecular variance residual on his shuttle is evidence of disruptor blasts and the signature is Kazon, so at least that part of his story seems to be true."

The Evidence

Unlike many Star Trek fans, I (mostly) enjoyed Voyager's first season, but even I was ready to give up on the series after a slew of lackluster episodes at the beginning of Season Two. Duds like "Elogium" and "Initiations" did not bode well for either the season or Voyager as a whole. It wasn't until "Persistence of Vision," seven episodes down the line, that things began to pick up—a slow start that wasn't helped by the grafting of several first-season leftovers onto the beginning of the second.

Fortunately, things picked up from there, and fans who stuck with the show were treated to some excellent episodes, like "Meld" and "Resistance," which avoided Voyager's trademark pitfall—an overreliance on treknobabble and high-concept storylines—and focused squarely on the kind of character-based drama that Star Trek is famous for.

A couple of other things that Voyager got right this season: dealing with the political and social impact of the Federation starship on the Delta Quadrant, and incorporating more multi-episode arcs into its mostly self-contained stories. It was gratifying to see moments here and there in which civilizations that Voyager encountered remarked upon the ship's growing reputation in the quadrant, and to chart the evolution of that reputation over the course of the season, as the crew proved its honorable intentions in the face of malicious rumor-mongering by the Kazon and other hostile factions.

I was also intrigued and pleasantly surprised by one story development, played out over the course of several episodes, involving Tom Paris and his increasing discontent and antagonism toward Chakotay. It was interesting to see these seemingly left-field outbursts from Paris cropping up from week to week, finally paying off in "Investigations" when we discovered what was actually going on. By Voyager standards, that was a pretty ambitious move, and one I wish I had seen more of throughout subsequent seasons.

The second season of Voyager demonstrates some of the chief strengths of the series—its willingness to tackle thorny moral and ethical issues with forthright honesty. "Tuvix," for instance, inspired some of the most heated philosophical arguments that I've ever seen among Trek fans, and its moral implications are hotly debated even today. (My take: when Tuvok and Neelix suffered the transporter accident, they effectively died, and Tuvix should have been allowed to live.) Any series that inspires that kind of passionate response to its ideas is a worthy series, and if Voyager had done so with more consistency, it might have won over more fans than it ultimately did.

The DVD package of Star Trek: Voyager, Season Two is similar to the first-season set in terms of packaging and extras. I was one of the few admirers of the, shall we say, "different" packaging of the Voyager sets, with their translucent plastic panels and various interlocking parts. Time, however—aided by numerous frustrating attempts to close the box, only to be thwarted because the plastic pieces didn't fit together just so—has amended my opinion of the packaging, and not for the better. So, the box looks spiffy on the shelf, but whoever designed the thing clearly didn't have to open and close it more than a couple of times.

Video quality is superb, with a bright, vivid transfer and a sharp, mostly flawless picture. Voyager looks great on DVD—better, possibly, than any other Trek series currently available in this format (at least until Enterprise finally hits the shelves). Audio is similarly excellent, with a clean, vibrant Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 track delivering some beefy, lively sound that presents dialogue and effects equally well.

The roster of extra features for the second season is similar to that of the first, with a decent collection of featurettes and interviews.

• "Braving the Unknown" is a retrospective of the second season and features Voyager producers offering some insights into the challenges of creating a weekly Star Trek series.

• "Voyager Time Capsule: Tuvok" is a 2003 interview with Tim Russ, who plays Tuvok, reflecting upon his Voyager years with warmth and appreciation.

• "Saboteur Extraordinaire: Seska" is another (brief) 2003 interview, with Martha Hackett (Seska), who's quite lively, showing a healthy sense of humor about her role on the show.

• "A Day in the Life of Ethan Phillips" follows the actor as he undergoes his tedious daily ritual of getting made up as Neelix, giving viewers an appreciation of the ordeal of Trek alien actors.

• "Red Alert: Visual Effects Season 2" has visual effects producer Dan Curry offering an interesting glimpse into the creation of Voyager's computer graphics, models, and other special effects.

• "Real Science with Andre Bormanis" is another installment of the Voyager science consultant's discussion of how real-world science is incorporated into the futuristic "science" of the series.

• There's a text-based "trivia commentary" for "The 37's" that's worth watching if you enjoyed that episode.

• There are also a few hidden features scattered throughout the discs, most notably a short interview with Brannon Braga in which he rather sheepishly admits to the failure of the execrable "Threshold," and a music video of a performance by Tim Russ that's…well, if you're a fan of Russ's music, you're in for a treat. If not, then you're still in for a treat, but more of the campy variety than the musical appreciation variety.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Season Two had its redeeming moments, but it was also hobbled by some chronic weaknesses that plagued the show throughout its seven-year run. One that is particularly irritating this season is the need for the writers to include A, B, or even C plots in every episode, whether they are called for or not. "Meld," for example, is a taut, unforgettable psychological drama, and the inclusion of a subplot involving Paris running a gambling pool only distracts from the main story. (Of course, Paris's subplot here is part of the larger story arc that I just got done praising, but I wish the writers had picked another episode to plant this in.)

Another recurring problem with Voyager is its appalling lack of follow-up; characters that undergo hugely significant, life-altering changes in one episode will be completely fine in the following episode, and the life-altering events will never be referred to again. "Tuvix," for example, ends with many of its moral questions hanging in the air; but by the next episode, "Resolutions," Tuvok and Neelix have apparently gotten over any lingering issues that might have resulted from being fused and separated (at the expense of the life of their fused being), because they're back to normal with no further mention of what happened to them. Similarly, the catastrophic events of "Deadlock," which have some pretty serious implications for certain characters, are subsequently abandoned. These sorts of "reset button" episodes, and episodes where Voyager is practically destroyed, only to be pristine again the following week, tend to cancel ! out whatever respect the series might have gained from its more winning moments.

Closing Statement

This second season of Voyager, with its rocky beginning and the presence of stinkers like "Threshold" and "Elogium," isn't likely to win back any viewers who lost interest in the show during its first year. But the patient Voyager fan will find a fair number of gems scattered about this inconsistent but worthwhile season.

The Verdict

Star Trek Voyager: The Complete Second Season is placed on probation with a suspended sentence while the court attempts to figure out what the heck "symbiogenesis" is.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 95
Audio: 95
Extras: 85
Acting: 90
Story: 75
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile

Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 1183 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Drama
• Science Fiction
• Star Trek
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• "Braving the Unknown" Featurette
• "Voyager Time Capsule: Tuvok" Featurette
• "Saboteur Extraordinaire: Seska" Featurette
• "A Day in the Life of Ethan Phillips" Featurette
• "Red Alert: Visual Effects Season 2" Featurette
• "Real Science with Andre Bormanis"
• Text Trivia Version of "The 37's"
• Easter Eggs








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