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.
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.
"We're Starfleet officers—weird is part of the job."—Captain Kathryn Janeway
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"
• "Non Sequitur"
• "Persistence of Vision"
• "Cold Fire"
• "Death Wish"
• "The Thaw"
• "Basics, Part 1"
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.
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.
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
• "Braving the Unknown" Featurette
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