Thu
Jul 14 2011 5:04pm

I Like My Coffee Black and My Crew Lost: Six Voyager Episodes Worth Re-Watching

I like My Coffee Black and My Crew Lost: Six Voyager Episodes Worth Re-Watching

I’ve got a pretty solid theory as to why Captain Janeway is always drinking black coffee: she’s hung over from partying too hard on the holodeck. If Ron Moore had been writing Voyager, I’m confident we’d see some behind-the-scenes Col. Tigh-level of drinking. But alas, we only witnessed the coffee in the morning.

However, despite being the SECOND most hated Star Trek show of them all (I’m still pretty sure Enterprise is still first, despite some of the good moments) Voyager has some really solid episodes that deserve a second or third viewing. When I ran the Enterprise post, several of you pointed out a Voyager list would be hard because the impulse to focus on episodes featuring The Doctor or time-travel. So with that in mind, here’s a list of six Voyagers, in no particular order, that every Star Trek fan and normal person would like too.

 

“The Voyager Conspiracy”

I like My Coffee Black and My Crew Lost: Six Voyager Episodes Worth Re-Watching

When Voyager was first airing, I remember thinking a lot of the Seven of Nine storylines were recycled Data themes from TNG. And while this may be kind of true, this Seven-centric episode isn’t like that at all. In this one, our former Borg drone plugs herself into the actual database of Voyager in an effort to be more efficient. As result, Seven starts finding out all sorts of little things going on throughout the ship that she probably wouldn’t otherwise be aware of. As this minutia starts to stockpile in her brain, Seven starts linking together random events, which formulate a huge conspiracy. It turns out though, that Seven just has a little too much information for her own good, and has actually formulated this conspiracy in her mind. All of us can feel like the world is really against us sometimes, and this episode does a great job of illustrating that feeling of loneliness and despair through a neat science fiction character. We’ve all felt like Seven at some point. Well, maybe not the shortness of breath from that outfit, but you know what I mean.

 

“Blink of an Eye”

I like My Coffee Black and My Crew Lost: Six Voyager Episodes Worth Re-Watching

This episode feels so much like a 60s Trek premise that its title is even similar! (Supposedly, the producers actually originally titled this one “Wink of an Eye” until they realized that WAS already used by Star Trek!) In any case, Voyager enters into orbit of a planet with some seriously screwy temporal mechanics. What is just seconds for the crew, is years and years for the people down on the planet below. This means that by completing just a few orbits, our intrepid crew has already instituted themselves into the planet’s history by being a relatively fixed point in their night sky. This is probably the laziest way to violate the prime directive ever! The Doctor even gets to live down there for a few years, and sort of develops an attachment to the place. This episode is great because it really is just all about the crew dealing with a “strange, new world.” That’s what it’s all about, right?

 

“Someone to Watch Over Me”

I like My Coffee Black and My Crew Lost: Six Voyager Episodes Worth Re-Watching

In a previous piece, I mentioned how much I love this episode. Sure, it’s one all about the Doctor and Seven, but hey, if I’m a shipper for Trip and T’Pol, you can bet I’m one for the Doctor and Seven. I mean, what the hell was that BS of her and Chakotay dating at the end of the series? No way!

Anyway, this is a great one because the idea of the Doctor giving Seven dating lessons is like Paris says “the blind leading the blind.” I also like the idea of Seven discovering what she’s interested in on accident. The notion of suddenly realizing you have a hobby seems kind of thrilling. The other aspect to the story is that is resonant today is that Seven chooses her first date by going through the ship’s personnel files. Just like internet dating! But really, this episode is worth it for the “You are My Sunshine” bit alone.

 

“Future’s End”

I like My Coffee Black and My Crew Lost: Six Voyager Episodes Worth Re-Watching

A two-parter! With time travel! And best of all, Sarah Silverman! Honestly, I feel like this time travel to the 90s episode should have happened during the TNG era, but the fact that it was with this crew may have been better. If you’re a Trek fan, the musings about what sort of timeline this 1990s is part of is sort of great, as the Eugenics Wars are clearly not happening. Part of the fun of this episode is also how dated it seems. Don’t get me wrong, I like Janeway’s powersuit, but I think I like Tuvok’s do-rag more. The introduction of the future Starfleet time-policing Starfleet and Captain Braxton is pretty cool, too. One of the best episodes from Voyager’s early seasons.

 

“Year of Hell”

I like My Coffee Black and My Crew Lost: Six Voyager Episodes Worth Re-Watching

Another two-parter about time travel! Eeek. Maybe these were the best Voyager plots. In this one, the dad from That 70s Show is going around repeatedly screwing with timelines around the Delta Quandrant. This guy’s temporal incursions make Nero from the new movie look like a joker. The epic scale of this episode is pretty great even when you consider there’s a reset button at the end. I also enjoy how much this episode is referenced in other episodes because it makes it feel like a serious focal point. There’s the crew before the year of hell, and the crew after the year of hell. And as crummy of a character as Chakotay really is, there’s something pretty chilling when he’s given the opportunity to start futzing with the timeline, too. Personally, I think I’d trust even Neelix with those kinds of responsibilities over Chakotay.

 

“Author, Author”

I like My Coffee Black and My Crew Lost: Six Voyager Episodes Worth Re-Watching

My absolute favorite episode of Voyager of all time. The Doctor writes a holo-book about his experiences on Voyager. A quasi-memoir, “Photons Be Free” immediately causes problems among the crew owing to the ways the Doctor appropriated everyone for use in his “artistic” narrative. The conflict really comes to a head when a publisher in the Alpha Quadrant refuses to let the Doctor terminate the distribution of the “book” on the grounds that he has no rights, because he’s a hologram and not a person.

Now, this is sort of the same conflict as the Data episode from TNG “The Measure of a Man” (penned by Melinda Snodgrass!) but the way it all shakes out is different. Instead of defending the Doctor’s status as a lifeform, Tuvok aims to prove that the Doctor is an “artist.”

So little is said in shows like Star Trek about what people are doing in the arts in the future. Art and entertainment are such a huge part of life that the exploration of that in a science fictional context is beyond wonderful. It’s fun and thoughtful. The repercussions this episode has on hologram-related plotlines are also very rewarding in subsequent episodes. Though I’m not sure the Doctor’s book would be a good “read" I’m glad he got to put it out there, in his way, all the same.

What about you? Did you really like that one episode with the children’s story on the holodeck? Do you think Namoi Wildman should have been given her own TV show? What about Kes? Did you like her second hairstyle or her first hairstyle?

 


Ryan Britt is a staff writer for Tor.com. Like many of you, he’s never been able to figure out how to do the Captain Janeway Halloween costume.

27 comments
Michael Poteet
1. MikePoteet
What, no "Bride of Chaotica"? I think "normal people" would enjoy that one, too, as well as fans (even if it is a Holodeck episode!).

I don't quibble with most of your choices, but I do think the introduction of the Time Cops of Starfleet from the 29th century was a mistake. It set a kind of "temporal upper limit" on the future of the Federation that could be constructed. Why limit oneself that way?
Rootboy
2. Rootboy
I remember "Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy" where some aliens hack into Voyager and see through the Doctor's eyes, but see his daydreams by accident, so they think he's awesome, as being pretty good. The Doctor was really the best character on the show.
Rootboy
3. David A (still)
So I will play the contrarian: I like Voyager better than any series except The Next Generation, and Janeway is my favorite captain after Picard. And to be clear, I watched the original Star Trek when it first aired in the sixties. While I certainly agree that Spock is one of the great characters of all popular fiction, and Leonard Nimoy's performance was terrific and did not always receive the appreciation it deserved, I am immune to the charms of either Captain Kirk or William Shatner.
Rootboy
4. Jeff R.
So, two stories featuring More Interesting Alternative Versions of the Crew (Year of Hell and Author, Author). (And not my favorites of that subset in which most of the best Voyager stories lie, even, which would be "Before and After" (The Year of Hell was better the first time around) and "Worst Case Scenario", which gave us at least one episode of the more interesting show implied by Voyager's premise. Actually, both of those episodes did that, first on the 'alone and diminishing supplies' side and the second on the 'badly-integrated crew' one.)

The Voyager Conspiracy had great promise. The questions 7 was asking during the first half or so are, in fact, very good questions, and if the episode had actually tried to answer them rather than taking 7's suspicions too far and using that to sweep them all under the rug, there might have been something there, but as it actually turned out, this falls into the "If the characters are complaining about the plot, you're in trouble" category.

I'm not a big fan of "Someone to watch over me" or "Future's end", either: for a Doctor-centric story, I'd take "Symbiogenesis" any day. Especially since he at least gets to spend the episode being absolutely right. (Voyager liked to do 'big moral dilemna' stories even more than other Trek, but unlike other Trek captains Janeway could be absolutely counted on to be completely wrong every single time in these.) And for the last slot, (I tried to come up with a two-parter I liked as a direct replacement for Future's End, but no luck), I'll go with "Memorial".
Rootboy
5. cyan
I liked Voyager a lot, followed it from the very first episode, and was impressed by the fact that both the franchise and the network went with a female captain. But that horrible, horrible gibson-girl-esque-bun hairdo that they forced upon Mulgrew for the first couple of seasons was absolutely horrible. And I do mean horrible!
j p
6. sps49
I started liking Voyager, then disliked it enough to just be indifferent.

There were some rockin' episodes even later which I caught by accident, and the premise was good, but I soon felt that the premise was used badly. There should be tension in almost every episode from the fact that this crew was effectively alone and cut off from support. Voyager would need some advantage- speed, stealth, other advances- just to prevent antagonists from massing ahead of them to kill or capture them. The closest to this I saw was the Kazon, and how big is their sphere of influence, anyway? They spent forever transiting their space!

And yes, Seven had the Spock/ Data slot, but she looked good in it.
Alain Fournier
7. afournier
I was never a huge fan of Voyager. I had some high expectations for it. It had some excellent episodes and some pretty cool ideas but those for the most part were indifferently implemented.
On the minus side events rarely had a lasting impact and the show was responsible for neutering the Borg .

Of the one's you listed I think Author Author was my favourite.
Michael Burstein
8. mabfan
I felt that Voyager had more issues than many of the other Trek series, but I still found it enjoyable. I'm surprised you omitted "Eye of the Needle"; that was the one first-season episode that I thought showed absolute brilliance.
Alain Fournier
9. afournier
I'll second Eye of The Needle and I also really like Prime Factors from the first season. That one showed how good Voyager could have been.
David Lomax
10. dlomax
I liked the episode "Nemesis" in which Chakotay gets brainwashed into fighting an alien war. Really interesting use of language in that one, substituting "off synonyms" for regular words (eyes became "glimpses" for example). It's a pretty unsubtle allegory, but it still worked for me.
Rootboy
11. WiglyWorm
Seems a travesty that Scorpion is not on here while. That 2 part series was easily my favorite storyline of any Star Trek series.

That said, I have to agree with the rest of this list.
Rootboy
12. a-j
Forget the name of the episode, but the one set on a planet centuries after Voyager had visited (The Voyager Incident or something like that?) was the one I liked the most, with the memory and understanding of the visit having shifted noticably. A nice satire on the appropriation of history by interested groups.
Marcus W
13. toryx
I was thinking that maybe my memories of Voyager were too harsh and that after I finished rewatching Enterprise on Netflix that I'd give it a try. But I'd forgotten about Phelix (or whatever the hell his name was) Neelix and Seven-of-Nine and after reading about these "best of" episodes, the whole notion of watching the series has seriously soured in my stomach.

I know there are people who really liked Voyager but it really has no appeal for me whatsoever.
Ryan Britt
14. ryancbritt
@12 A-j The episode is called "Living Witness" and it's rad.

@11 WiglyWorm I tried to stay away from too many action episodes. Though that one is pretty sweet

@8 and 9 Yeah, "Eye of the Needle" is pretty dope. oops.

@3 David A! Thanks for rocking the boat!

@1 Mike
I can't say the Captain Proton stuff ever did anything for me. Something about it being all about Tom Paris and Harry Kim. For me that was a big old snooze fest.
Rootboy
15. BJ Calurus
I've always had a soft spot for "Distant Origin," in which the crew meet the highly evolved descendants of Earth's dinosaurs; their ancestors had made it into space before the K-T event. A well-worn trope (cf. "Toolmaker Koan") but well handled.
Ryan Britt
16. ryancbritt
@15. Love "Distant Origin" too. I wrote about it last year when I talked about lizard people.
Adrian J.
17. LightningStorm
My disagreements with this list aside, I think the single most egregious omission from this list is Living Witness.

If I were to make a list though I'd pick these:
Time and Again
Futures End
Scorpion
Year of Hell
Blink of an Eye
Living Witness
Andrew Love
18. Andy Love
Agree with the above about "Living Witness" - it's the episode that first leaps to my mind as "a great Voyager episode"
Kristen Templet
19. SF_Fangirl
I'll second, third, fourth, whatever "Living Witness". Althought I couldn't remember the title, it and "Year of Hell" were the two I expected to see on this list. I know this is a matter of personal taste, but I had forgotten about most of these episodes you listed and if these are the best well that explains a lot about why Voyager gets such a bad wrap.

I think of Voyager as such potential lost. Great premise ... to be "exploring strange new worlds and civilizations" again (TNG got away from that), but it never felt that that's what they were doing.

And then they met the Borg and defeated them and it got ridiculious. That the stranded ship short on supplies could do such things.
Rootboy
20. not-a-number
I've often had to justify my love of Voyager to friends, especially since I thought the first season was so terrible compared to DS9. I refused to watch more, and only caught the rest years later—and then felt like a dumbass for not having kept up with it. OK, it had many flaws (Kes!), but it also had some spectacular moments. I also loved Janeway, Seven, the Doctor and Tuvok. Scorpion, Year of Hell—pretty unbeatable. But I mainly enjoyed some quieter, character-driven episodes no one's mentioned so far.

Two back-to-back episodes in the 5th blew me away:
"Counterpoint," not just for its use of Mahler's 1st—but Mahler on Trek?! Awesome—but because Janeway's love/betrayal story was so compelling. Same for "Latent Image," when the Doctor's memory was altered to keep him from falling apart. Such great endings.

I also enjoyed other oddball episodes, like "The Thaw," when Janeway conquers Fear, and both "One" and "Infinite Regress," where Seven had to fight, essentially, forms of mental illness.

(and, sorry, Sarah Silverman in Future's End was an abomination)
Rootboy
21. Evan H.
Never understood why this series is unpopular. It's my favorite Trek after the original series, and Janeway is the most Kirklike of the captains. No, it wasn't perfect, but measured in "number of episodes I'd enjoy watching again" it scores higher than TNG by a factor of at least five.
Alain Fournier
22. afournier
The article and the comments are tempting me to rewatch Voyager in its entirety. If I find them cheap on DVD I might do that.
Rootboy
23. Eugene R.
I will toss out a small cheer for "Body and Soul" (season 7, episode 7), wherein Seven of Nine, captured by aliens with Harry Kim, absorbs the Doctor to prevent him being destroyed as a "photonic insurgent". The episode gave Jeri Ryan a chance to do her Robert Picardo impersonation, and she went to town with it (see the cheesecake eating scene, for example).
Rootboy
24. UrsulaMinor
Watching trek re-runs as a kid, Voyager was always my favourite. I kind of thought that DS9 was boring, and the original series episodes were sort of cheesy (I had no appreciation for badly constructed monster suits back then) There wasn't much TNG on at the time. But Voyager was on, and there was Janeway, being awesome and kicking ass, being the boss of everybody, and Tom Paris, being sort of dreamy, and 7 of 9, also being sort of dreamy... Yeah I dug Voyager. Probably because it had all the best female characters (in my opinion) and none of them were there to fufil the token 'wishy washy feeler of feelings' person.

... I too now feel compelled to find some Voyager and watch it
Rootboy
25. Pendard
I've been contemplating with episodes of Voyager I'm going to rewatch now that it's on Netflix. My list would probably include "Before and After," "The Gift," "Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy," "One Small Step," and "Muse."
Bryan McMillan
26. bmcmolo
Voyager gets a bad rap, but when it was good, it was pretty great. Janeway was a good Captain, and Mulgrew consistently brought her A-game.

All fine choices here, though I'd add "Bride of Chaotica" and "Course Oblivion."
Rootboy
27. djrichmatthews
Do you think Namoi Wildman should have been given her own TV show?

Don't know about her own show but I loved her relationship with 7 Of 9

What about Kes? Did you like her second hairstyle or her first hairstyle?

Her first by far.

...As far as Voyager goes in general I think it was the second best of the Trek series after Next Generation, not the second worst (or actually I think the expression was second most hated)... It took a while before it found its groove but once it did, it did and there were some great episodes, so many IMHO that I have a hard time pairing it down to a top five. But if I had to pick, I'd have to go with "Distant Origin", "Relativity", "Blink Of An Eye", "Muse" and "Endgame" with honorable mentions going to "Live Fast And Prosper" (for two words: "Nice hair") and to "The Gift" - I hated to see Kes go but if you're going to axe a character that's probably about the most uplifting and dignified way you can do it...

... except maybe for Tasha Yar's farewell speech.

"Hailing frequencies closed sir."

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment