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”
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”
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”
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.
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”
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.
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.